Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 13-14
Secrets drive a wedge between our hero and the former gisaeng-in-training, making it increasingly difficult for them to continue their charade. Our hero has better luck finding out why his family was attacked but he’s unprepared when he finally hears the truth. Before he can fully comprehend his situation, Nokdu learns about a stunning betrayal that places everyone in the widows’ village in danger.
EPISODE 13: “I Will Leave Soon”
The lone survivor of the birthday celebration lives long enough to tell the king’s guard that they were attacked by women and that one of them was dressed in mourning clothes.
When the guard reports to King Gwanghae that Minister Heo is at the gisaeng house in Mudam Valley, the king remembers the widows’ village. Soon, the king and his men are headed to Mudam Valley on horseback.
Lady Cheon is alarmed when the king’s men arrive and quietly search the gisaeng house. When King Gwanghae enters the darkened widows’ village, he sees torches burning at the shrine.
While Yul-moo’s men point their swords at Minister Heo and the others, Yul-moo offers to be made the next king instead of the late Prince Yeongchang. Disguised as Lady Kim, Nokdu peeks into the shrine, turning around at the sound of a breaking twig.
Inside, Minister Heo asks the blood-spattered Yul-moo, “Do you think you have what it takes to be a king?” Outside, King Gwanghae slowly raises his eyes to Nokdu.
Ssook leads women dressed as mourners to the shrine while Nokdu loudly scolds, “This village for widows is protected by the king. Men are forbidden here.” When King Gwanghae tries to push past him, Nokdu doesn’t let him through.
Convinced that the shrine hides a secret, the king is surprised when Ssook opens the door to innocently inquire, “How may I help you?” Inside the shrine, King Gwanghae finds widows in prayer and when Ssook sees the blood on the floor, Nokdu sits on top of it to pray. The king’s guard reports that Minister Heo only visited the gisaeng house briefly and that they found nothing suspicious.
As the king and his party ride away, Lady Cheon thanks Nokdu for his help. He looks at the departing figures and asks, “By the way, who is he?”
In his home, Yul-moo pours some tea for Minister Heo while offering mock sympathy for Heo’s loss of influence. Heo doesn’t care now that Prince Yeongchang is dead but Yul-moo is only too happy to take his place.
When Heo asks why he wants to be king, Yul-moo gets a faraway look in his eyes, “I have always wished that our poor people would have enough to eat and live good lives.” Yul-moo laughs at his joke because all he really cares about is being an invincible king.
When Minister Heo stands, Yul-moo guesses that he’s on his way to see the king and wonders what he’ll say — that Heo was plotting against him or that the son who died twenty years ago is actually alive.
Nokdu’s brother, Hwang-tae, joins them as Yul-moo reveals that Heo’s assassination attempt unearthed a secret. We see that Yul-moo’s man, Park Dan-ho, was the one who pointed a sword at the missing assassin, Deul-re, in the bamboo grove. He was also the masked man who saved Yoon-jo and Hwang-tae from the Muweol Corps’ second attack.
What Yul-moo learned about Nokdu’s family confirmed the stories that he heard as a boy from his father. Hwang-tae introduces himself to Heo as Yoon-jo’s son and announces his support for Yul-moo, “He is the only man who will bring back everything that I have lost.”
As Aeng-du sleeps, Dong-joo remembers the nighttime visit from Yul-moo. When she reminded him that he wasn’t allowed in the village, Yul-moo declared, “I can go wherever I please and kill whomever I want.” Testing Dong-joo’s feelings, Yul-moo asked for permission to kill Nokdu but she insisted that she had used him, nothing more.
Dong-joo’s thoughts are interrupted when she hears Nokdu outside and she pretends to be asleep. When Nokdu is in bed, he’s troubled by that same visit because he overheard Dong-joo tell Yul-moo about her plan to leave the village. Nokdu also heard Dong-joo’s claim that she used him but when Yul-moo proposed, “Leave this place and come to me,” she sent him away.
Dong-joo and Nokdu turn around at the same time, giving her the chance to bring up his promise to tell her why he came to the widows’ village. After Nokdu refuses, their inevitable bickering wakes up Aeng-du, who sits up and scolds, “My goodness, that is enough!”
Over breakfast, Aeng-du lectures Nokdu and Dong-joo for acting like kids. As Dong-joo leaves to work in the kitchen, Nokdu pleads, “Do not go…Do you even know what kind of guy he is?” Dong-joo heatedly reminds Nokdu that even though they live together, she knows nothing about him.
Having finished her breakfast, Aeng-du complains again about her roommates’ bickering and announces that she’s off to see Yul-moo. Nokdu is beyond frustrated when they leave but the girls find the kitchen empty. Aeng-du is disappointed because Yul-moo promised to make flower pancakes, so Dong-joo offers to make them herself.
At the palace, Minister Heo informs an ally that the gisaeng house is no longer safe so he’s decided to relocate the Muweol. When his fellow minister suggests accepting Yul-moo’s plan, Minister Heo hisses, “He can never be the next king.”
Ssook’s team, including Nokdu, sits before Lady Cheon as she explains that the Corps is being relocated to the headquarters in Hanyang. The widows are concerned about Minister Heo’s weakening status so Lady Cheon explains that with Yul-moo’s rise, Heo’s power will soon be restored. Lady Cheon must travel to Hanyang to meet with Yul-moo and chooses Nokdu to accompany her so that the others can help with the move.
After Nokdu updates him on the latest developments, Master Hwang announces that it’s time to find his father and go back into hiding. Nokdu decides to stay disguised as Lady Kim to gather more information about the conspiracy against the king and vows, “I am going to put an end to this…Then we will no longer have to hide. My father, brother, and…” Nokdu trails off as he thinks of Dong-joo but Master Hwang misunderstands and promises Nokdu that he and Aeng-du will stay by his side.
As he approaches the kitchen, Nokdu thinks of the bloodied Yul-moo that he witnessed the night before. Prepared to face him, Nokdu opens the kitchen doors, surprised when Dong-joo and Aeng-du jump out to escape exploding flower pancakes.
After Nokdu figures out that Dong-joo added water to hot oil, Aeng-du asks him to make the pancakes. When Nokdu protests that he’s too busy, Aeng-du whines that Yul-moo would make them and pancakes are soon sizzling. Aeng-du reminds Nokdu and Dong-joo (who’s busy picking her pancakes off the walls) about her promised picnic and she only has to mention Yul-moo to get her way.
Minister Heo visits Yoon-jo, who’s feeling like a prisoner. Minister Heo insists that he’s protecting Yoon-jo but the man needs to find his sons. Rather than tell him that Hwang-tae is safe, Minister Heo promises that his men will find him if he’s still alive.
When Minister Heo mentions the king’s son, Yoon-jo promises, “We will go where you tell us to go.” Minister Heo is suddenly thoughtful, “You told me he grew up to be a smart and righteous man. Maybe he could be my alternative.”
Taking advantage of their distance from the village, Nokdu is dressed as a man for the picnic. When he catches Dong-joo staring at him, Nokdu teases, “Look how handsome I look…” Dong-joo ignores Nokdu’s offered hand to cross over some water, insisting that he’s not handsome at all.
Nokdu, Dong-joo and Aeng-du have been in a rowboat in the middle of the river for an hour without catching a single fish. Nokdu and Dong-joo bicker about the picnic until Aeng-du shoves flower pancakes into their mouths, complaining, “Goodness. You two will end up getting attached to one another at this rate.”
When Aeng-du asks why they keep fighting, Dong-joo complains that Nokdu has lots of secrets. Looking guilty, Nokdu confesses that he doesn’t want to lie to her, “I cannot tell you why I came here. Not now.”
Needing to poop, Aeng-du is returned to shore and she sends Dong-joo to find her a soft leaf. Dong-joo looks over at Nokdu in the boat and gasps when he falls back into the water. Dong-joo wades into the river, yelling out, “Hey,” and just as she’s about to dive underwater, Nokdu surfaces with a fish. His proud smile disappears when he sees the distressed look on Dong-joo’s face.
EPISODE 14: “Secrets About Nokdu’s Birth”
While Aeng-du feasts on the freshly cooked fish, Dong-joo warms herself by the fire. Aeng-du wonders, “Why did you not tell her that you lived on an island,” and Nokdu admits, “She never asked.”
For the walk back to the village, Nokdu changes back into his Lady Kim outfit. When Dong-joo coughs, Nokdu sits her down to place dry foot coverings on her feet. Dong-joo stares at Nokdu and then confesses, “When I thought that you fell into the water earlier, I could not call you because I did not know your name.”
Nokdu promises to tell her after her chicks grow up and Dong-joo snaps, “Forget it.” Nokdu insists that the chicks need Dong-joo to stay by their side and pleads, “Promise me that you will do so,” but she decides to just keep calling him “jerk”.
Yul-moo finally makes an appearance at the gisaeng house where Lady Cheon shows him Minister Heo’s order to move the Muweol Corps. Lady Cheon promises to help secure Minister Heo’s support for Yul-moo when she travels to Hanyang with the newest member of the Corps.
Trembling like a leaf, Yeon-geun appears before King Gwanghae who demands to know everything about the village.
Outside of Lady Cheon’s office, Yul-moo runs into Nokdu after hearing that he was accepted into the Muweol Corps. Nokdu learned something about Yul-moo as well, “I heard you are preparing to commit treason.” Yul-moo moves closer to hiss, “I am sparing your life even though you ought to be dead because Dong-joo asked me to…I am starting to want to break my promise…”
Dong-joo packs up her things in her secret cave and at the sight of the men’s clothes that she wore when she met Nokdu, she congratulates herself for refusing to stay by her chicks’ side. Tears fall from Dong-joo’s eyes when she admits, “But I want to,” and when she drops her head on the table, she sobs, “I want to stay by his side. I am sorry, Mom.”
Dong-joo gets home while Nokdu is checking to see if her things are still there. He admits that he’s worried that she’ll leave without a word but Dong-joo sees Nokdu’s bundle and points out that he’s the one who’s leaving. Dong-joo sends Nokdu away but he soon returns, “I will not ask you to like me. You can use me if you want. I am fine with that. So…Please do not disappear on me. I am begging you.”
The next day, Nokdu is disguised as a gisaeng in a veiled hat when he and Lady Cheon reach Minister Heo’s house. At the gisaeng house, Dong-joo leaves a letter in Lady Cheon’s office and then informs Yul-moo that she’s leaving.
Yul-moo wants to travel to Hanyang together but Dong-joo insists on going alone. To confirm her safe arrival, Yul-moo asks Dong-joo to meet him at the swing later that night.
Before she leaves, Dong-joo begs, “Promise me that you will never harm him.” Yul-moo angrily reminds Dong-joo that she denied having any feelings for Nokdu but her eyes fill with tears as she vows to leave without a word to insure that he hates her.
Tears stream from Dong-joo’s eyes as she shares her hope to spare Nokdu unspeakable grief when she dies, “I know very well how it feels to lose someone you love so dearly…I will not let that happen.” Yul-moo wipes away Dong-joo’s tears as he realizes, “You are not warning me. You are confessing your feelings for him.” When Dong-joo asks for the money that she’s earned, Yul-moo coldly informs her that she’ll have to wait until she’s in Hanyang and warns, “Do not be late.”
After questioning Yeon-geun, King Gwanghae orders his guard to bring in the woman who runs the gisaeng house and the widows who are the closest to her. If that doesn’t work, the king wants him to bring in witnesses.
Ssook, Jung-sook and Yeon-boon are the last members of the Muweol Corps to leave the village and as they head for Hanyang, they pause for one last look. When Jung-sook confesses regret at leaving her friends behind, Ssook reminds her that they’re leaving so that those friends will be safe.
Deep in the woods, the leader of an army of thugs shows the men a bag of money as Yul-moo walks away.
During her meeting with Minister Heo, Lady Cheon mentions that Yul-moo promised to take care of powerless people. Minister Heo pulls out the vest that belonged to the missing assassin, whose body was discovered near the village.
Minister Heo just learned who was responsible for the widow’s murder and Lady Cheon realizes that he’s talking about Yul-moo. Heo describes Yul-moo as a man capable of killing anyone in order to get what he wants.
Nokdu is outside when Lady Cheon exits but it’s Minister Heo that he follows. As Nokdu disappears through a gate, Yoon-jo exits his room in time to see a woman walking away.
Nokdu overhears Minister Heo caution his guards who are dressed in black, “Grand Prince Neungyang is…very much prepared, so you must be careful.” Minister Heo’s man, Chil-seong, asks, “Should we find him and kill him,” but he’s told, “He had to hide and live on an island because of his father. Bring him back alive.” When Nokdu realizes that they’re talking about Hwang-tae, he knocks out one of Minister Heo’s men and changes into his clothes.
Over tea with Hwang-tae, Yul-moo expresses hope that they’ll become friends. After Hwang-tae accepts the idea, Yul-moo asks for his help in finding the king’s son. Outside, Minister Heo’s team arrives and finds Yul-moo’s swordsman, Park Dan-ho, waiting for them.
As Minister Heo’s men prepare to fight Park Dan-ho, Nokdu slips away from his spot on the roof. Inside, Yul-moo confesses that he’s thinking about killing the king’s son but he wants to hear Hwang-tae’s opinion. Their meeting is interrupted by a noise coming from outside.
Hwang-tae is alone when Nokdu finds him and pulls him into a hug, relieved. When Nokdu tries to get Hwang-tae to leave with him, his brother informs him that he’s not a prisoner. Hwang-tae explains how Yul-moo’s man saved him when he and Yoon-jo were attacked a second time by the Muweol. Thanks to Yul-moo, Hwang-tae finally learned the truth about why their family was forced to live in hiding and it’s all because of Nokdu.
When Hwang-tae hears the fighting outside he urges Nokdu to leave but he demands to hear the truth. Hwang-tae changes Nokdu’s life forever when he tells him, “This is all because you are the son of His Majesty.” Shocked, Nokdu backs away as a tear falls from his eye.
Outside, Park Dan-ho is about to kill the last of the attackers when Yul-moo stops him, “We need someone to go back and tell Lord Heo not to waste his energy.”
Nokdu tries to dismiss Hwang-tae’s claim, insisting, “I am my father’s son.” Hwang-tae thinks back to his mother’s final words for Nokdu and announces that he intends to recover everything that he’s lost.
When Nokdu asks what he’s supposed to do, Hwang-tae advises, “Run away by yourself…Hide and live like you do not exist. If you do not do that, you will surely die.” Hwang-tae pushes Nokdu out the door and when he appeals to his brother, Hwang-tae insists, “Do not call me that anymore.”
After shutting the doors on Nokdu, Hwang-tae’s face is wet with tears and when Yul-moo returns, he claims, “The alcohol got me feeling a little sentimental.” Yul-moo doesn’t look convinced but he has an appointment to get to.
Nokdu slowly walks away from Yul-moo’s house and Hwang-tae and pulls his mask over his face.
When Lady Cheon arrives at his house, Yul-moo is disappointed that Lady Kim isn’t with her. Lady Cheon asks if he killed her missing assassin and she’s distressed when Yul-moo casually admits, “I killed her in order to keep a secret…Is there something wrong with that?”
Lady Cheon is suddenly worried that Yul-moo will abandon the Muweol Corps and the widows’ village. While pledging not to abandon the Corps, Yul-moo confesses, “And as for the village for widows, I have already abandoned it.” It’s at that moment that the hired army reaches the widows’ village.
Lady Cheon promises that if Yul-moo gives her time, she’ll make sure that the king never finds any witnesses. Yul-moo has a different solution in mind and Lady Cheon contains her horror long enough to breathe, “I understand now.” As Yul-moo leaves to meet Dong-joo, he orders Lady Cheon to tell Park Dan-ho to find Lady Kim.
Minister Heo is alone in his office when his door opens. Nokdu points his sword at Minister Heo’s neck as he asks, “My father, my brother, and me. Why did you try to kill us? Who on earth am I?” Just as Minister Heo realizes that he’s in the presence of King Gwanghae’s son, Lady Cheon sounds the alarm, “The village for widows is in danger!”
At the widows’ village, the hired army uses their torches to set everything on fire and when the widows run outside, they’re killed. Soon-nyeo, Bok-nyeo and Mal-nyeon run from their rooms, shocked by the sight that greets them.
A horse carrying Nokdu races to the village as Yul-moo waits for Dong-joo by the swing in Hanyang. When she fails to arrive, Yul-moo mounts his horse and heads for the village.
Master Hwang and Aeng-du are at the market where the girl searches for a particular food vendor. When Master Hwang warns her about tigers, Aeng-du holds up a bag of money and announces that they can afford to stay overnight. As Aeng-du continues her search, Master Hwang wonders, “Why did he tell her to eat something that does not exist?” Hmmm.
Inside the widows’ village, the massacre continues as the men are reminded, “Kill all of them.” After leaving her cave for the last time, Dong-joo sees that the village is in flames and runs.
Soon-nyeo fights valiantly but gets knocked down by two men who are suddenly stopped by Dong-joo’s arrows. When Soon-nyeo answers a cry for help, a huge man grabs Dong-joo by the throat and lifts her into the air.
As Yul-moo searches the burning village, he sees that Dong-joo is in danger and bellows, “Stop it immediately!” Unable to breathe, Dong-joo’s eyes widen as her thoughts turn to her final meeting with Aeng-du. She left money for Nokdu and asked the girl for his name.
As her assailant raises his ax, Dong-joo croaks, “Nokdu,” and then goes limp. A sword is raised and blood sprays across Dong-joo’s face as she falls into Nokdu’s arms.
Nokdu finally gets to hold Dong-joo in his arms but he doesn’t even know if the girl that he loves is dead or alive. Against the backdrop of a fiery inferno/massacre, Nokdu’s tragic night just drags on and on. Nokdu is positively gutted after his meeting with the man who he believed was his brother, feeling utterly alone after Hwang-tae tells him the truth about his paternity and sends him away…for good. Nokdu then confronts Minister Heo to confirm that he’s indeed King Gwanghae’s son only to learn that Yul-moo has ordered the destruction of the widows’ village.
Bent on securing the throne, Yul-moo has dropped his facade as the warmhearted chef. Yul-moo’s smiles are now cruel and chilling and there’s no question that he’ll kill whoever gets in his way. Yul-moo’s only weakness is Dong-joo but how will that change now that he’s knows without a doubt that she loves Nokdu and not him? And how will Dong-joo react when she learns that her childhood friend is behind the attack on the widows’ village, his attempt to tie up loose ends on his way to the throne?
Yul-moo has also been busy securing support for his campaign to be king. Knowing Minister Heo’s secrets, Yul-moo is confident that he’ll soon have his backing and he’s succeeded in winning over Hwang-tae (?!) who’s poised to assume the life of a highly placed nobleman.
There’s no doubt that Minister Heo is a snake after he withheld the fact that he saw Hwang-tae alive and well from his worried father, but I’m not sure what to think of Hwang-tae. Does he subscribe to the “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” line of thinking or has a lifetime of hiding from the king made it a no brainer to align himself with Yul-moo? Either way, Nokdu faces a continued life of exile but this time, without a brother or a father by his side. Knowing Nokdu, he’s going to fight for his “family” but there’s one troubling detail that has me wondering how this story will unfold — we’ve already been told that Yul-moo becomes the next Joseon king, King Injo.
For a romantic comedy, which Tale of Nokdu executed brilliantly in the first few episodes, there’s been tragedy galore. Yul-moo is so unnervingly ruthless and already has considerable blood on his hands so he’s no improvement over King Gwanghae, who attempted to smother his own son. Lady Cheon, the Muweol Corps, Minister Heo and Yoon-jo are going to have to decide where they stand as the conspiracy against King Gwanghae comes to light. There are more losses ahead but first we have to learn who was lost in the widows’ village massacre. Thankfully, Aeng-du and Master Hwang were spared because I really don’t want to see another child murdered. Prince Yeongchang was quite enough, thank you.
In spite of the traumas, there were some beautiful moments. Dong-joo’s feelings for Nokdu have hit “cough” territory because she can no longer hide how she feels, from herself or anyone else. She confessed her true feelings for Nokdu in her cave and braved the river to save him when she thought he fell into the water. But their secrets keep them at odds with each other and prevent them from getting closer. Nokdu can’t risk endangering Dong-joo with news about a conspiracy that involves Yul-moo. And Dong-joo won’t risk allowing Nokdu’s feelings to deepen when she’s determined to kill King Gwanghae, knowing that it will cost her her life. When will these two start working together to discover the truth about their pasts so that they can consider their futures?
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