Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 17-18
Our hero and heroine enter into a fragile truce, enabling them to befriend a good-natured administrator, unaware that he’s the man that they’re both desperate to meet. As Nokdu continues to gather evidence about the impending revolt, he does his best to keep an eye on Dong-joo, two very dangerous pursuits. When he finally gets the chance to meet the man that he’s been told is his father, he gets not one, but two surprises.
EPISODE 17: “Yul-moo Misleading Widows”
King Gwanghae carries a lantern into a dark kitchen where Nokdu and Dong-joo are hiding. A quick-thinking Dong-joo unties Nokdu’s tunic to make it appear as if he’s just interrupted two lovers.
The king’s guard notices Nokdu’s black clothing but a flashback shows that Nokdu stole an identical tunic as he ran through the marketplace after seeing that his was damaged. When King Gwanghae recognizes the pair, he sends his guards away and Nokdu guesses that he must be a high ranking policeman. King Gwanghae uses the misunderstanding to his advantage when he explains that he’s on the lookout for someone.
When the king wonders what more the pair has in mind, Nokdu and Dong-joo jump apart. King Gwanghae asks Dong-joo for Nokdu’s name but she coyly claims that she followed him from the marketplace in the hopes that they could get to know each other better. Ahem.
As the guards search for Nokdu, he walks away with Dong-joo and the king. King Gwanghae is surprised that someone as fragile as Yeon-geun’s cousin would take the military exam but he encourages Nokdu just the same. When Dong-joo clears her throat, the king catches on that his companions want to be alone but before he leaves, he tells the pair, “You two look good.”
With Nokdu out of danger, Dong-joo is about to leave as well until he pulls out her IOU, “I finally caught the person who took my money, so why should I let you go? As Nokdu pushes Dong-joo in the direction of his place, the king questions Yoon-jo.
The king remembers that Yoon-jo’s son wasn’t named Nokdu but Yoon-jo explains that his family had to change their names. The king asks to meet Yoon-jo’s son but Yoon-jo confesses that he has no idea where he is.
When they reach Yeon-geun’s house, Nokdu ignores Dong-joo’s request for a room of her own. Announcing that he can’t trust her, Nokdu carries Dong-joo’s bundle into his room and she follows him.
Later, as they both lie in their beds, Dong-joo catches Nokdu staring at her. When Dong-joo asks about his wound, Nokdu hotly confronts her about leaving while he was still unconscious. Dong-joo manages to hide her feelings and answers, “That had nothing to do with me.”
Nokdu takes her by the shoulders to demand, “How can you say that,” but when Dong-joo is silent, he decides, “Fine. Do not worry about my well-being and pay me back.” Dong-joo doesn’t want Nokdu worrying about her either but he assures her that any feelings he had are long gone. When Dong-joo snaps, “I never had any to begin with,” Nokdu flops down to sleep.
In the morning, Yeon-geun knocks on Nokdu’s door to announce breakfast but when he opens it, he jumps back in shock. Master Hwang and Aeng-du run over and see Nokdu and Dong-joo sleeping in each other’s arms.
At breakfast, Dong-joo has to endure Yeon-geun’s hostile glare while Master Hwang smiles at Nokdu. Nokdu explains that she moves around a lot during the night and Dong-joo chimes in that they were nowhere near each other when they fell asleep. Nokdu tells their housemates that the only reason that Dong-joo is back is because she owes him money.
When Nokdu and Dong-joo insist that they have no feelings for each other, Master Hwang just smiles while Yeon-geun scoffs, “Hah!” Aeng-du points out, “Since she is back, you will not be crying during the nighttime,” and an embarrassed Nokdu claims this injuries were responsible for his tears.
Dong-joo asks Aeng-du if she’s enjoying the food in Hanyang but the girl sighs that she misses Yul-moo’s dishes. Dong-joo tries to change the subject by asking Yeon-geun why he’s in Hanyang but when he blurts out that he was worried about Nokdu, they back away uncomfortably. Dong-joo announces that it’s time to go to work and Nokdu joins her, without eating a bite of Yeon-geun’s breakfast.
When Nokdu watches Minister Heo’s house, he learns that it’s being watched by royal guards and Yul-moo’s man, Park Dan-ho.
After hearing that Hwang-tae hasn’t been sleeping well, Yul-moo brings him a remedy. When Hwang-tae mentions his uselessness, Yul-moo assures him that he’ll be of great help in the near future, regaining the life that he lost.
Outside of the palace, Dong-joo approaches the palace servant that she befriended and learns that no one can mention her name after the swing incident. The servant suggests that she should give up any hope of working in the palace but when Dong-joo presses a gift into her hand, she mentions that there is a way…
Ssook is reunited with Jung-sook and Yeon-boon at the Muweol Headquarters in Hanyang. After Yeon-boon reports that the surviving widows were taken to a safe place, she asks Ssook if she got a look at the man who killed Lady Cheon. Ssook didn’t recognize him but vows to find him and kill him but Yul-moo interrupts, “Do you still not get it?”
A somber Yul-moo informs the widows that Minister Heo was behind Lady Cheon’s murder. He explains that after Lady Min’s (Nokdu’s assassin) body was found in Heo’s house, the king wanted to question Lady Cheon. After Minister Heo had her killed, the king confined Heo to his house. Yul-moo proposes that Ssook should take over the Muweol Corps to get revenge against Minister Heo, while helping him to create a new world.
Armed with the support of the Muweol Corps, Yul-moo meets with Minister Heo’s faction to announce that it’s time for their revolt, without Heo. One of the ministers asks for a declaration from Yul-moo to insure that the prince doesn’t abandon their agenda and he seemingly agrees.
Nokdu watches as Yul-moo leaves the meeting but before he can follow him, Dong-joo arrives on the scene. Dong-joo enters an illegal gambling den and asks for Lord Park as we hear the palace servant’s explanation that he introduces prospective servants to his sister, for a fee.
Even though she was warned that it’s some sort of scam, Dong-joo sits across from Lord Park and plops down a bag of money, asking to work in the palace. Lord Park informs Dong-joo that it’s not nearly enough and suggests paying him back with three months of wages.
Dong-joo inspects Lord Park’s promissory note and finds that the real contract amount, hidden by a piece of paper, would take thirty years to repay. Before Dong-joo can get away, Lord Park grabs her hand to force her signature.
Lord Park is pushed into the ink by Nokdu, who argues that until she repays his debt, Dong-joo belongs to him. Lord Park orders his men to kill them but Nokdu (looking beat up) and Dong-joo manage to get away.
When Nokdu turns around, Dong-joo gasps that he’s bleeding. Dong-joo wipes the blood from his nose but she’s talking about his side. Nokdu smiles when a worried Dong-joo drags him to a clinic.
At the palace, King Gwanghae thinks back to Yoon-jo’s answer that he was the only one who survived that day. As the king sighs heavily, the queen joins her husband, concerned by what she’s heard about Minister Heo. The king doesn’t appreciate her meddling but the queen is worried that the disloyalty of his old friend has caused him distress.
The queen remembers how kind the king was when she first came to the palace, before she lost their child. When King Gwanghae sharply reminds her that she’s not to mention that day, she points out that he never even comforted her. The king snaps, “That is the kind of husband I am. So it would be much better if you stop worrying about me.” After the queen leaves in tears, King Gwanghae looks miserable.
After examining Nokdu, the doctor points to some clean bandages and tells Dong-joo to take care of her husband. As they wait for the doctor to return, Dong-joo wraps Nokdu’s torso with a clean bandage, leaning in very closely every time it goes around his back.
Nokdu never takes his eyes off of Dong-joo’s face but she’s careful not to look at him. When Dong-joo finally asks, “What,” Nokdu wants to know, “You said that you did not care if I was hurt or not. Then, why are you worried about me?”
Dong-joo felt obligated to help Nokdu because he was hurt protecting her but Nokdu agrues that her face says otherwise. Dong-joo tells him to think whatever he wants and returns to wrapping the bandage around his body, her face just inches from his as she works.
EPISODE 18: “Trap for Yul-moo”
As they walk home from the clinic, Nokdu wonders why the criminals in the gambling den haven’t been arrested. Dong-joo explains that the police make so much noise that the criminals have plenty of time to escape out the back door.
When Dong-joo asks if he’s hungry, Nokdu pulls out a small money bag that he picked up in the gambling den, unaware that her large sack is filled with coins. Nokdu tries to get her to repay her debt and as they argue, an old woman seems to recognize Dong-joo. The pair stops fighting when the king surprises them, “Are you already having a lovers’ quarrel?”
The old man asks his wife why she keeps turning around and she insists that she saw Eun-seo, the lady that they once served. He remembers burying her family’s bodies but his wife reminds him, “…we did not find a body for the lady.”
The king joins Nokdu and Dong-joo for their meal and when he asks if it was rude to tag along, Dong-joo bluntly answers, “It was not nice.” King Gwanghae senses the couple’s tension and laughs amusedly when Dong-joo and Nokdu call each other “lame”.
When asked if he’s on another stakeout, the king explains that he’s not on duty, just having trouble sleeping. The king tells Dong-joo that he was headed for the swing where he first met a sad Nokdu. In an attempt to change the subject, Nokdu suggests a way to combat the king’s insomnia.
At the same time, Minister Heo informs Yoon-jo of a way to protect Nokdu from the king — have Nokdu replace his father on the throne.
Nokdu pushes Dong-joo up a steep path as the king complains, “I thought he was going to relieve my insomnia.” Nokdu good-naturedly does the same for the king as Heo makes a case for overthrowing King Gwanghae. When he calls the king a lunatic with a sword, Yoon-jo reminds Heo that he’s the one who made him that way.
Heo asks Yoon-jo to hand Nokdu over to him but Yoon-jo refuses, “I have no desire to make Nokdu do such a heinous deed. And you have no right to dethrone the King.” Yoon-jo turns away from Minister Heo, signaling that he’s done talking.
Together, Nokdu, Dong-joo and King Gwanghae enjoy a breathtaking view of Hanyang. Nokdu assures the king that he’ll sleep now that he’s exercised and advises him to stay busy throughout his day.
King Gwanghae guesses that other people can’t sleep because of the king’s incompetence. Seeing the look of surprise on Nokdu’s face, the king queries, “Do people not talk about the king behind his back?”
Nokdu asks, “Have you ever seen His Majesty,” but the king reminds him that he’s just an administrative officer. When King Gwanghae notes Nokdu’s interest in the king, both he and Dong-joo deny it and she laughs that she thought he was talking to her.
On the walk down the mountain, Dong-joo tactfully asks the king if he sleeps alone. Dong-joo gazes at Nokdu fondly as she explains how she solved her insomnia, “It helps to have someone who cares and worries about you.”
Dong-joo suggests that the king should allow his family to help him just as Nokdu interrupts, worried that she’s been badmouthing him. The king smiles as Dong-joo and Nokdu walk away bickering.
When they get home, Nokdu has to leave again but he asks Dong-joo, “You can have secrets or push me away. I do not mind. But do not do anything dangerous. Just promise me that.” All Dong-joo says is for Nokdu not to worry.
In the garden, Hwang-tae recalls Yul-moo’s promise to find and protect his father, Lord Jung Yoon-jo. At Yul-moo’s urging, Hwang-tae affixed his thumbprint to a public record below his real name, Jung Yi-hyung. A rock falls at his feet with a note attached and Hwang-tae hides it in his sleeve after reading it. Park Dan-ho reports the incident to Yul-moo who tells himself, “Soon, I will be able to meet the King’s son.”
Dong-joo visits her chicks and confesses, “After I met him, I realized how much I missed him.” Master Hwang joins her to muse, “Life never goes the way you want it to.” After he explains that Nokdu “stole” a room for her, Dong-joo goes inside in time to see an upset Yeon-geun vacating his room.
Dong-joo insists that she’ll sleep anywhere but Aeng-du astutely observes, “He (Nokdu) just wants to keep you nearby. Your rooms are connected by a window.” Master Hwang scolds his daughter, “They are trying so hard to act like they do not like each other.” When Master Hwang reminds Nokdu that he has an exam the following day, he leaves to avoid Dong-joo’s questions.
Later that night, Nokdu smiles when he sees Dong-joo’s silhouette in the window of the wall that separates them. They fall asleep turned towards each other as King Gwanghae stands outside of the queen’s chambers, thinking of Dong-joo’s advice, “‘To have someone by your side who cares and worries about you.'” Instead of alerting the queen to his presence, the king walks away.
Yeon-geun, Master Hwang and Aeng-du are waiting when Nokdu exits the exam. Confident that Nokdu is on his way to becoming a general, Master Hwang pulls him into a hug. Before leaving, Nokdu exchanges a knowing look with Master Hwang.
While shopping in the market with Yul-moo, Hwang-tae asks to visit a bookstore. Instead, he goes to the illegal gambling house and asks for Lord Park with Park Dan-ho and Yul-moo right behind him.
Yul-moo sits down where he can see Hwang-tae but before Park Dan-ho can unsheathe his sword, a policeman in disguise shouts, “Arrest them!” In the confusion, Hwang-tae’s companion runs him out the back door and Yul-moo disappears.
Thrown to the ground in the middle of a bamboo grove, a sack is pulled off of Yul-moo’s head and he sees Nokdu looking down at him.
In a flashback, we see that Nokdu advised the local police to infiltrate the illegal gambling house in disguise, like their superior (because he thinks the king is their boss). Nokdu used the raid to kidnap Yul-moo.
With his hand around Yul-moo’s throat, Nokdu demands to know why he involved Hwang-tae. Yul-moo makes it sound as if they met by coincidence and he merely offered him a place to stay.
Nokdu stops Yul-moo’s lies with a punch to the jaw and asks, “What do you know about me?” Nokdu grabs Yul-moo’s throat again and squeezes when Yul-moo claims that he’s not interested in him. Yul-moo manages to push Nokdu’s hand away and pulls out a knife. Nodku disarms him and punches Yul-moo’s face before sending him flying with a kick. Nokdu pulls out his sword as Yul-moo yells that he’ll pay for what he’s done.
Nokdu applies that reasoning to the innocent women that Yul-moo killed, “If you have committed a crime, you must pay for it regardless of who you are.” Before Nokdu can strike, Park Dan-ho lands in their midst. Nokdu picks up the knife and plunges it into Yul-moo’s shoulder while blocking Park Dan-ho’s attack with his sword.
After steering Hwang-tae to safety, Master Hwang greets his friend with a smile. Angry, Hwang-tae turns to leave but Master Hwang questions him. After explaining that he’s not being held against his will, Hwang-tae begs to be left alone and leaves.
Nokdu’s side wound starts to bleed as he fights Park Dan-ho. When Park Dan-ho glances over at the unconscious Yul-moo, Nokdu attacks. Park Dan-ho manages to knock Nokdu’s sword away and promises, “Let us finish this next time.” Nokdu watches helplessly as Park Dan-ho carries away Yul-moo.
Once he’s back home, Nokdu hears about Hwang-tae from Master Hwang. Master Hwang worries that the police are on their way since Nokdu attacked a member of the royal family and suggests running away. Nokdu doesn’t believe that Yul-moo will report him since he’s plotting treason. What they can’t decide is if Hwang-tae is unaware of Yul-moo’s plot or in denial.
After returning to Yul-moo’s house, Hwang-tae apologizes for allowing Nokdu to use him. Yul-moo isn’t angry because he found the king’s son, the man that he’s been looking for so that he can kill him. When Yul-moo reminds Hwang-tae that he expects his help when the time comes, he agrees, “Of course. I have already promised that to you,” but his fists are tightly clenched.
When the exam results are posted, Yeon-soo’s name (Nokdu’s latest alias) is first. Dong-joo is stunned when she learns that Nokdu is going to the palace but when he invites her to his ceremony as his family member, she tells him, “Forget it.” Alone in her room, Dong-joo sits in front of a small chest.
On the day of his ceremony, Nokdu kneels as he waits for the king. Yul-moo has been summoned by the king and is told that he just left for the awards ceremony. A drum announces King Gwanghae’s arrival and he smiles when he sees Nokdu, who looks as if he can hardly breathe.
Nokdu stands when the name Yeon-soo is called and he kneels in front of the king just as Yul-moo joins the festivities. Outside the gates, Dong-joo thinks of Nokdu’s invitation, “…you can pretend to be my family and come see me.”
Yul-moo smirks as the king reads, “First place of military service exam. Yeon Soo.” When Nokdu looks up, he sees Yul-moo and then the face of the king and recalls Hwang-tae’s words, “This is all because you are the son of His Majesty.”
The pace of the story slowed a bit this hour, giving some relationships time to deepen as others fracture. Nokdu uses Dong-joo’s IOU to keep her under his roof and under his protection but he has to be careful not to disrespect her boundaries or she’ll run. Dong-joo can’t be tamed and Nokdu recognizes that, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want her to be safe and happy.
It’s that constant fear that Dong-joo will leave for good that gives Nokdu the strength to control his feelings whenever he’s with her. Nokdu’s resolve was certainly tested when Dong-joo bandaged his wounds, their faces (and lips!) just inches apart from each other. I had to laugh at the way that Nokdu’s bare torso was worked into the episode and that Dong-joo had her hands on his body, yet again. Tale of Nokdu looks to be having some fun with the fans in spite of the serious nature of the current storyline.
Nokdu’s relationship with the king has become a respite for both men — if only they knew the truth and could confide in one another. For starters, they have lots to share about their experiences while in disguise. That similarity alone is awfully endearing, along with the way that they are both drawn to the swing when they need to think. It was obvious how proud King Gwanghae was when he saw Nokdu at the ceremony and how much he was looking forward to revealing his identity.
Unfortunately, the reveal was marred by Yul-moo’s presence with that smirk that promises devastation for both the king and Nokdu. Yul-moo’s admission to Hwang-tae that he plans to kill Nokdu puts another nail in the coffin of his relationship with Dong-joo as well as Hwang-tae’s with everyone that he’s ever cared about. I don’t know what Hwang-tae’s game plan is, and frankly I don’t care because I don’t like the character at all. I’m pretty sure that Hwang-tae’s machinations will put him in mortal danger and that Nokdu and Yoon-jo will pay the price for his folly. All to Yul-moo’s benefit. Ugh.
Getting back to the king and Nokdu, I’m curious what was significant about Nokdu’s birthdate. Was there a prophecy that Nokdu would bring about the end of King Gwanghae’s reign, because I do believe that’s what could happen. Not because Nokdu would agree to take his father’s place on the throne, but because King Gwanghae might be willing to abdicate to save his son’s life. That might help him to atone for trying to kill his son and depriving the queen of their baby, plus ease the pain that he hasn’t been able to live with. Please let there be a way for Nokdu to survive Yul-moo’s revolt because I’m starting to feel very uneasy about where things are headed.
It’s only a matter of time before Dong-joo discovers the real identity of the lonely man who’s quickly becoming a fixture in her and Nokdu’s life. She’s sure to be confused when her personal experiences with the king are at odds with what she’s believed about him all of these years. I’m confused too, but it’s clear that King Gwanghae has been manipulated by advisors who have their own agendas, ready to toss him aside when someone better is old enough to reign. Yul-moo has woven a web of lies to entrap the king and anyone else who might get in his way, like Nokdu and Minister Heo. It’s possible that what Dong-joo thinks that she knows about the king has all been fabricated by Yul-moo, who’s been working to take the throne for himself for years. Let’s hope that there’s a way for our trio of night owls to enjoy late night meals and strolls for years to come.
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