Nokdu Flower: Episodes 9-10
Just when the brothers thought their lives might be improving, everything turns against them — except each other, of course. Their brotherly love continues to triumph over the prejudices of family and social class. Even if they find themselves forced to be on opposite sides of the burgeoning revolution, their loyalty to each other will remain strong — or will it?
EPISODES 9-10 RECAP
As Yi-hyun tests out his fancy new rifle, he’s greeted by a guest — Myung-shin. She’s worried about how he’s been since the last time she saw him, back when he was stressed out about his family. Aw, she even gives him a little gift. In return, he offers to show her his rifle. (No, that’s not a euphemism!)
Myung-shim is impressed at how ruggedly handsome he is when not wearing his fancy scholar robes. Yi-hyun shows off his sharpshooting skills, easily hitting the bullseye each time.
The Baek women are sighing over the fact that Yi-hyun’s husband is a soldier, and therefore on the battlefront of whatever is going on between the Donghak followers and the government. Master Baek doesn’t care about the risk to his son-in-law’s life, but when he gets word from Weasel that Yi-hyun has been conscripted, suddenly everyone’s freaking out.
After all, Yi-hyun is slated to take the civil service exam, so he should be given a pass due to being a student. But Weasel says there’s no proof Yi-hyun is a scholar because the list was burned by the Donghak scholars. Well, that’s partially true — it was purposefully burned by Teacher Hwang, since Teacher Hwang knew it would force Yi-hyun to be drafted.
Yi-hyun and Myung-shim’s “date” is interrupted by the draft officers, who immediately take Yi-hyun away. But not before he can give Myung-shim one last gift. He holds out an empty shell from one of the bullets, explaining that she’s only seen who he is on the outside (like the shiny casing shell), but he’s much stronger than he looks and promises to return. Myung-shim weeps as Yi-hyun is escorted away.
There’s chaos in Gobu as the families lament over their drafted sons, and Teacher Hwang watches as his target, Yi-hyun, politely nod while walking with the rest of the soon-to-be soldiers.
Yi-hyun’s sister shoves a bag of money at him so he can buy his equipment, and his mother collapses in grief. But Master Baek just stares at his son in disbelief while Yi-hyun stoically continues his march.
It’s nighttime and Yi-kang’s riding on Ja-in’s horse, returning to the temple. He’s caught in a trap by the awesome mountain people, who try to figure out if he’s a spy. Yi-kang realizes that they must be Donghak, and asks them to take him to their leader.
No need, since Bong-joon’s right-hand man, Kyung-sun, appears and immediately recognizes Yi-kang. There’s no love between them, but he escorts Yi-kang through the Donghak camp.
Not to see Bong-joon, though. He tells the mountain people to tie Yi-kang up, since Kyung-sun assumes that Yi-kang is only there for revenge for his crippled hand.. Yi-kang manages to grab a hostage from one of the young mountain men and holds a knife against the boy’s throat.
It’s a face-off that’s only interrupted once Bong-joon appears to see what the fuss is all about. Yi-kang immediately lets go of the boy and greets Bong-joon in his unique, sassy way. Then he tells Bong-joon that he’s there to join Bong-joon’s army.
That’s not what anyone was expecting, and Yi-kang explains how his mother was framed and has to live in hiding all her life, so now Yi-kang wants to turn the world upside-down. Amused, Bong-joon admires Yi-kang’s spirit, but points out that fighting might not be easy with a crippled hand.
Another of the Donghak leaders adds that Yi-kang killed someone and therefore can’t be trusted. Yi-kang insists Chul-do killed the Donghak follower, but when Bong-joon asks if Yi-kang killed Chul-do (like it says on the wanted posters), Yi-kang explains it was out of self-defense.
Disappointed, Bong-joon tells Yi-kang that he should go back where he came from — they don’t need a murderer in their ranks. Desperate, Yi-kang pleads with Bong-joon, pointing out that he’s worked so hard to become “Baek Yi-kang” after Bong-joon “killed” What’s-his-name.
Bong-joon wonders if Yi-kang thought being “born again” would easy, and Yi-kang snarks that it’s actually completely ruined his life. Finally, Bong-joon orders Yi-kang — calling him What’s-his-name — to leave the Donghak camp.
At the inn, Deok-ki oversees the peddlers as they assemble to be conscripted into the army. But Ja-in interrupts them, telling them there’s no need — she’s become the arms dealer for the government, so she’ll need them to help carry equipment.
Deok-ki immediately tattles on her to her father, who orders her to cancel the deal. He doesn’t want his daughter being involved in the messy business of war, but she insists there’s good money to be made, and she’d be foolish to pass up this opportunity. She refuses to be the meek little woman who stays home, safe-and-sound, searching for familiar names in the obituaries of the fallen soldiers.
She quotes her father’s own words at him, reminding him that this world is a battlefield, and she’s choosing this path so she can see that world. She orders her father not to interfere, then storms out of the house.
Out in the woods, Yi-kang angrily tries to make his way back, taking out his frustration on a few innocent trees. But he’s overtaken by the young mountain boy that Yi-kang held hostage. The boy puts up a good fight, with some pretty sweet wuxia-style moves, but he can’t stop Yi-kang’s solid right hook (even with a crippled hand).
Yi-kang grumps that the boy followed and tried to attack him out of revenge for being held hostage, but the boy angrily says that he saw Yi-kang beat one his family members to death (back when Yi-kang was a thug under Master Baek’s orders). Now the boy holds up his deadly slingshot, vowing to kill Yi-kang.
But the sniper girl intervenes, scolding the boy like she’s his older sister. She yells at him, pointing out that killing Yi-kang won’t solve anything.
Not that she’s exactly got the warm-fuzzies for Yi-kang, since her own family was killed by thugs like Yi-kang. She warns Yi-kang to never join the Donghak army, instead telling him to just live his life as a criminal, then she drags the boy back to the camp.
Bong-joon plants a few mung bean seeds in the dry soil. His fellow Donghak leaders don’t think it’ll grow, but Bong-joon has faith they will. Aw, so that’s how we’re explaining his “Nokdu” nickname.
Then he shares the declaration of arms he’s written, where it says that the Donghak followers will overtake Jeonju and the seat of the government. The men vow to continue their fight until their dream is complete — that all men will live as equals.
Ja-in and her peddlers, with their military wares, are heading to the outpost when they’re stopped by a soldier. Ja-in shows him the insignia that proves she’s an official military supplier and he lets her pass, warning her to be careful ’cause she’s a woman.
Suddenly a deserter is dragged forward, and Ja-in watches as the deserter — who insists that he only ran because he was scared — is immediately executed. She’s shocked, although she tries to hide it when Deok-ki wisely warns her that if she can’t handle the harsh reality of war, then she shouldn’t be an arms dealer.
Ja-in stands her ground, though, insisting she’s not scared — she’s just worried about Yi-kang and whether or not the Donghak followers accepted him. Deok-ki teases that she missing Yi-kang, but suddenly her gaze shifts and she sees Yi-hyun purchasing his military gear. There are also others who notice him — and his silk bag full of coins.
Yi-hyun fights off three men who attack him for his money, managing to get the upper hand by using his nifty rifle as a battering ram. Ja-in, concerned for his safety when she saw him carrying the money bag, calls over a military officer. But the officer is more interested in the fancy rifle, and claiming it will be a burden to Yi-hyun, takes it for himself.
Offended by the outright theft, Ja-in is ready to fearlessly fight to get the rifle back on Yi-hyun’s behalf, but Yi-hyun wearily says that it’s pointless. He’ll just buy another gun, even though it won’t be as nice as the rifle.
Alone, Yi-kang continues to stagger his way down from the mountain as the Donghak army slowly marches along, to the cheers of the peasant farmers in the field.
As the men march, we hear Bong-joon recite from the declaration of arms, which states that the king’s corrupt officials are a direct cause of the peasant’s sufferings. The peasants are what make up a nation — they are the roots, without which the nation will fail. Therefore the people must rise up and fight the corruption in order to save the nation.
In Gobu, the Baek family panics when they hear that the Donghak followers are getting close. But they just about have a heart attack when Yi-kang suddenly appears. He warns them that it’ll be impossible to escape to Jeonju, so he’ll escort them to a hideout. Then he asks where Yi-hyun is (and Lady Baek is more offended that Yi-kang actually calls his brother by the informal name, instead of immediately telling him that Yi-hyun has been conscripted).
As Yi-kang sneaks his family out of Gobu, Weasel frantically orders his men to hurriedly pack up all the important government records and supplies so that they can flee. But the magistrate is in no rush, and pompously declares that they will fight alongside the other soldiers. Much to Weasel’s dismay.
By the time the Donghak followers — especially the mountain people advance scouts — arrive at the government house in Gobu, the officials have left to join the soldiers. The Donghak people and the peasants cheer at the easy occupation of Gobu.
Bong-joon is thrilled to see Teacher Hwang again, but concerned about the torture his friend went through. Bong-joon can’t help saying “I told you so” that reconciliation wouldn’t happen with the Gobu officials, then switches the subject to reveal he met Yi-hyun and commends Myung-shin on her husband-to-be.
But Teacher Hwang is still bitter about the match, and curtly tells Bong-joon to shut up and leave. Hurt, Bong-joon says that he’s only here as a friend — he left his politics at the door. Teacher Hwang seems to be giving up on the Donghak religion, though, as he says that the next time he meets Bong-joon, it’ll be as an enemy. Yikes.
Yi-kang gets the Baek family settled in their cave hideout, telling them that it should only be for a few days until the Donghak followers leave Gobu. He’s not planning to stick around himself, since he’s a wanted man and doesn’t want to run into any government soldiers. He scoffs at Master Baek’s request for him to stay — what, like they can be a happy little family in their cave?
Master Baek wheedles, though, suggesting that if Yi-kang volunteers as a soldier, then the government would wipe out Yi-kang’s criminal record. Yi-kang scoffs, knowing full well that volunteer soldiers are sent to the front line and are the first to die.
Desperate, Master Baek pleads with Yi-kang to join the army so he can look after Yi-hyun. Finally it all makes sense — the reason Master Baek was so concerned about Yi-kang was only to benefit Yi-hyun. Of course Lady Baek is all about doing whatever to save her precious son, but Yi-kang angrily pushes her away, since she keeps calling him “What’s-his-name.”
He yells that he’s Yi-kang now. Master Baek says that it’s not like the world will easily accept Yi-kang’s new identity. Still reeling from being rejected from Bong-joon, Yi-kang stubbornly insists that he’ll make them accept him.
It’s clear that Yi-kang is at a crossroads, struggling with the reality that being “Baek Yi-kang” won’t be as easy as he thought, and the promise of his father to continue to take care of him if Yi-kang continues to act like What’s-his-name for Yi-hyun. But Yi-kang walks away from his family. Yes!
The magistrate and other officials arrive at the military outpost, much to Weasel’s annoyance, and grandly himself the leader of the newly-minted soldiers. Oh, those poor men.
After the ranks disperse, Yi-hyun sees Ja-in, and asks if his brother’s glove was from her. He knows how expensive the glove is, and Ja-in simply says that she wanted to give Yi-kang a pretty glove since he has an ugly face. Pffft. But Yi-hyun has no sense of humor — at least, not when he suspects that Ja-in might know where Yi-kang might be.
Ja-in lies that she doesn’t know where he went, although it’s true that she doesn’t know Yi-kang’s exact location. Which is currently giving Chul-do a proper burial.
As he sits beside Chul-do’s graveside, Yi-kang ponders his father’s promise that if Yi-kang helps make sure Yi-hyun returned from the war alive, then he’d make Yi-kang an official.
Bong-joon and the other Donghak leaders are pleased that their declaration of arms is picking up some steam with other Donghak members throughout the country — as well as gaining new recruits. The concern is that the peasants are only armed with hand-hewn bamboo spears. They’re trying to train some men to be gunners, but they don’t have enough gunpowder.
There’s gunpowder at the military outpost, though, but the soldiers — including Yi-hyun — keep watch over it twenty-four hours a day.
The mountain people may not have the fanciest of guns, but they know how to make them effective as they sneakily surround the outpost and take fire. The sniper girl easily takes out the archers, and with their equivalent of grenade gun, the mountain men clear the way for the rest of the Donghak warriors to attack.
In the chaos, Yi-hyun grabs his fancy rifle from the now-dead commanding officer who stole it from him, then runs for cover. He’s knocked down by his fellow soldiers — the ones who attacked him for his money bag, but Yi-hyun uses the rifle to shoot them away before hiding behind some supplies.
Yi-hyun’s stunned when he’s suddenly grabbed by Yi-kang. There’s no time to explain — only time to run, as Yi-kang tells Yi-hyun to follow him. Once they’ve reached a spot in the woods, away from the gunpowder store house, Yi-kang explains that the Donghak followers won’t kill conscripted men, so Yi-hyun should be safe provided the official military doesn’t harm him.
Worried about his brother, Yi-hyun asks what will happen to Yi-kang, and Yi-kang tearfully says that even though their father wants them to return to their old life, Yi-kang no longer wants to be a part of it. He now wants to live simply as Baek Yi-kang.
Then he scurries back into the woods, leaving a stunned Yi-hyun behind.
The battle rages on at the gunpowder store house, and just when it looks like the mountain boy is about to be killed by a soldier, Yi-kang rushes in and kicks the officer down, saving the boy. He cockily tells the boy that he can’t get his revenge now, but everyone’s attention is diverted when a soldier grabs a flaming torch and runs into the gunpowder store room.
Yi-kang rushes in after the soldier, much to everyone’s shock, then staggers out, patting out the fire burning on his hat. Did he save the day? No, because he tells everyone to RUN! The gunpowder storage blows up as the soldiers flee from the explosion.
Yi-kang’s knocked out by the blast, then wakes up coughing as Bong-joon stares down at him in concern. Shrieking in horror, Yi-kang flails to his feet, insisting Bong-joon’s looming face scared the life out of him. HAHAHAHA!
Once he comes to his senses, he realizes that he’s in the Donghak camp, and wonders if Bong-joon decided to accept him after all. Yi-kang refuses to believe it, but when Bong-joon asks why Yi-kang was so foolishly brave back at the gunpowder outpost, Yi-kang mutters that he’s just trying to make amends for what he did as What’s-his-name.
Kyung-sun can see where this is going, warning Bong-joon that they shouldn’t accept Yi-kang into their group, since so many of the peasants have grudges against Yi-kang. But Bong-joon tells Kyung-sun to keep an eye on Yi-kang — after all, they could use another man with fighting experience.
Delighted, Yi-kang holds out his hand — his crippled hand — which Bong-joon stares at in bewilderment. Yi-kang has to explain the newfangled way of greeting that his brother taught him, and it’s super adorable how he has to actually put Bong-joon’s hand in his, then he repeatedly shakes it for a ridiculously long time.
From a distance, Yi-hyun watches Bong-joon and Yi-hyun shake hands. As Yi-kang’s face beams with delight, Yi-hyun’s face hardens. With his rifle on his back. Yi-hyun returns to the military outpost.
At the outpost, the peddlers are packing up out of fear of the Donghak followers that should be arriving soon, but Ja-in won’t budge. She sees Yi-hyun return, hours after all the other soldiers arrived from the gunpowder store house. He dazedly ignores everyone who greets him.
Ja-in sits with Yi-hyun, confessing that she was worried about him. Thanks to Deok-ki’s knowledge about war, she knows that a soldier’s first battle can leave him shellshocked. She gently encourages him to stay strong, then gets up to leave.
She stops when Yi-hyun tells her that he saw Yi-kang. Ja-in wants to know where, but Yi-hyun obliquely tells her that it was at the start of his brother’s journey to becoming Yi-kang. Aw, at least they both seem comforted by each other’s words, if only for a brief moment.
The first step in Yi-kang’s journey is accepting the Donghak religion in a formal ceremony. Haha, Kyung-sun and the mountain people do not look impressed by Yi-kang’s conversion.
The Donghak members cheer as they continue their march towards Jeonju, waving their flags and shaking their bamboo spears. Ja-in is back in her peddler’s disguise as they follow along with the Donghak members. She insists that they’re just spies, but Deok-ki smirks because he knows she’s really looking for Yi-kang.
He marvels when he sees the Donghak followers gathered on the mountain. They’re at Baek mountain, which means “white mountain,” and with all the followers in their white outfits, the mountain finally reflects his name.
The Donghak leaders read out the guidelines of their rebellion, which is not to harm any innocent people, and instead bring peace by driving out the foreign influence and destroying the current corrupt leaders. The Donghak followers cheer and bang their drums.
Meanwhile, the governmental soldiers set off from Jeonju. War is officially declared.
At Baek mountain, though, all the followers kneel down, and Ja-in marvels as she looks around. It’s no longer the “white mountain” — it’s now the “bamboo mountain,” since all you can see are the bamboo spears of the people. A list of historically accurate names of the Donghak leaders are yelled out to the people, ending with the ultimate leader, Bong-joon, who silently raises his sword.
The people rise up, cheering — including Yi-kang who yells along with them. Ja-in spots him, and smiles in relief, happy that he made it after all.
I love this show so much. I can’t believe we already have so much character development and we’re not even halfway through. I adore watching Ja-in figure out where she fits in the world — she’s not an aristocrat or government official, she’s a merchant, albeit upper-middle class thanks to her father. She’s not a peasant or a servant. She just wants to make money. But her eyes are gradually being opened to this new world, one that her father keeps desperately trying to protect her from. I’m glad that she seems to erring on the side of helping others, even if there’s no guarantee it will make her a profit. Status and money are all well and good, but people deserve the right to eat and live in peace. Although I hope that it won’t be too long before she comes face-to-face with Yi-kang because I miss their bickering!
As for Yi-kang, I’m glad that his journey to reclaim his name hasn’t been easy. (I’m still laughing at how he groans at every setback, though, like, “Again? Didn’t I already get tortured/beat-up/abused? Now I have to fight to defend myself again??” Yeah, I’d say he makes a good punching bag!) Not that I think he needs to suffer due to the cruel things he used to do when he was being ordered around by Master Baek — he’s clearly suffering enough by just realizing the pain he inflicted on people. Buuuuuut it is fun watching all the ways he’s having to prove himself and be scrappy since it seems like nearly everyone wants to kill him. For a man that was treated as nothing better than the household watch dog, I’m excited to see how he’ll potentially blossom under the hope of a new world where everyone is equal, as well as under Bong-joon’s mentorship (and Kyung-sun’s suspicious glare! Please let there be some bickering shenanigans between those two, if I can’t get it from Ja-in!).
My heart continues to be shattered for the brothers, though. Even though I know exactly where this story is going, I keep entertaining the foolish hope that somehow they’ll be able to fight side-by-side, to create the new world that they both want, albeit in completely different ways. That they’ll realize their dreams to establish a society that is civilized, peaceful, and free can be harmonious with both Yi-hyun’s love of Western enlightenment and Yi-kang’s newfound Donghak faith. That they’ll be able to leave their toxic family behind and forge a new world, filled with hope. I just want everyone to live happily ever after, please (except for the Baek family — they can stay in that cave!).
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