Joseon Gunman: Episode 5
Gah, nobody beats Lee Jun-ki for expressive eyes. The painnnn, you can just feel it through his gaze.
This is an episode that covers a fair bit of setup ground, because we’re starting anew as our hero puts his revenge mission into motion. I’m thankful that the show has done such a compelling job of setting up its initial conflict, because despite getting through a bit of exposition, I didn’t feel like the story slowed down or made me wait—I was still on pins and needles waiting for the payoff. This is one aspect of the show that buoys my faith in the drama as a whole, because regardless of the specifics of the plot, I’m so invested in the central conflict that I’ll be onboard this train through the end. Yoon-kang or bust!
SONG OF THE DAY
ALi – “돌 틈 꽃” (Flower in the rock) from the Joseon Gunman OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
The mysterious (not-quite-a-)stranger arrives at the harbor in time to stop a brewing fight with a few strategic gunshots, sending the ruffians scattering. Soo-in is pulled away by Ho-kyung, who cautions that it’s too dangerous here, while Merchant Choi Won-shin narrows his eyes. The new arrival looks familiar…
Yoon-kang has reinvented himself as Hasegawa Hanjo, the right-hand man to an important businessman, Yamamoto. Thus the Chois must smooth the way with Hanjo in order to score the big deal they need. Yoon-kang puts his gun away with a flourish and a smirk, and as he arrives on the pier he tosses out disdainfully in Japanese, “I see Joseon is still using the sword.”
Choi Won-shin sets aside his suspicions as he takes a meeting with Yoon-kang’s entourage, playing the part of solicitous supplicant. Yoon-kang’s got a right-hand man of his own (two, in fact), and one of them, Sang-chu (Choi Jae-hwan), is Joseon-born and acts as interpreter, although Yoon-kang points out in fluent Korean that he’s quite fine on his own. Sang-chu points out that their friend Kanemaru (Otani Ryohei) needs the translation, only to be reminded that Kanemaru’s not in charge here.
Yoon-kang is sort of amazingly rude in this meeting, which keeps the Chois on their toes as they do their best to be appeasing. He snaps at Choi to get to the point, interrupts his pleasantries, and sneers at Choi for bribing someone for information about his arrival. He not only turns down the trade proposal flat, he does so with a pointed insult: “One who uses bribes never carries good products.”
With that, Yoon-kang and his entourage sweep out of the room, leaving the Chois stewing. It’s pretty gratifying since we know he’s working another agenda, though taken at face value this Hanjo guy is kinda the worst. Interestingly, Hye-won remarks at how rude Hanjo was even as she seems intrigued by him.
Soo-in continues on her mission to pick up that special item that was delivered today. Her maid Jan-yi tries to warn her away from the rough crowd at the port, but Soo-in is determined and Ho-kyung just figures they’ll get this over with quickly.
Soo-in makes the purchase of photography equipment, just moments before the shop is raided by officers. The camera may be innocuous, but the shopkeep does also deal in gunpowder, and our guys don’t want to get caught up in the mess.
The officers charge in with swords drawn, and as a fight breaks out among the traders, Ho-kyung finds an opening for them to escape. Soo-in grabs her purchase and follows him out.
In her haste, Soo-in stumbles right into Yoon-kang’s path and goes tumbling to the ground. He barks at her angrily before recognizing her, but her attention is fixated on the case she’s dropped. There’s no time to retrieve her camera, and she gets pulled along while casting looks back at her lost purchase.
Yoon-kang is stunned to see her, and quickly turns away when Soo-in’s gaze briefly flits up to his face. She only gets a brief glance, but it’s enough to get her mind wondering.
Acting the part of haughty trader to the hilt, Yoon-kang complains about having to take another boat into the city, which gives Choi Won-shin the opportunity to propose an alternative. He offers his own horses for Hanjo’s use (to take the less comfortable boat himself) and his lodgings for their stay, keen to keep trade talks open.
Yoon-kang asks his companions for their opinions, and the principled Kanemaru states that it’s not appropriate to receive gifts and favors. Yoon-kang “translates” his protests as acceptance of the deal, adding requests for liquor and women for good measure, and Kanemaru is none the wiser at having been painted as a womanizing boozer. Choi Won-shin, meanwhile, is happy to oblige.
Soo-in is subdued all the way home, and Ho-kyung supposes that she’s bummed about her camera. Soo-in explains that it’s not the equipment that troubles her but the man she saw who looked like Yoon-kang. Mention of his name brings an immediate look of concern to Ho-kyung’s face while Jan-yi sighs, “You were fine for so long, but now you start again.”
Soo-in assures them that she knows Yoon-kang died. But that man looked so much like him… She decides she has to meet him, and perhaps she’ll get her camera back in the process. Ho-kyung just looks at her with a pained expression.
Choi Won-shin hosts a drinking party that evening, where Yoon-kang flirts heavily with his gisaeng companion, to the discomfort of pretty much everybody. When he starts to untie her top right then and there, Hye-won can’t remain silent any longer and orders the ladies to leave, telling Yoon-kang frostily that they want to do business with people, not mannerless beasts. If they want to continue their talks, Hanjo had best start behaving.
Yoon-kang acts offended at her rebuke, and when she offers to send them to a gibang instead, he gets up and declares his connection to their trading association over. His group leaves with their bags, and his sneering persona drops to reveal the true one underneath as he growls, “Uppity bastards.”
Choi Won-shin remains quiet throughout the exchange despite clearly disagreeing with both Hanjo’s boorish manners and Hye-won’s righteous outburst. After the guests leave, he gently chides Hye-won, saying that a merchant must hold his pride in check until the transaction has been completed. Hye-won apologizes, and her father says he’ll find another way. Then Choi muses that Hanjo looks familiar, but shakes off his fleeting suspicion as baseless.
Yoon-kang relocates to an inn, where he drops the Hanjo act to chuckle with Sang-chu, who congratulates him on his return to Joseon and asks why he acted that way with the merchants. Wasn’t his goal to infiltrate that trade organization no matter what?
Yoon-kang has a plan, though, and says that the merchants will be back. They need this deal with the Japanese, so he’s just giving them a bit of a runaround.
We flash back to three years ago, following his rescue and subsequent trip to Japan. He had been dead-set on returning home immediately, but it was his rescuer Kim Ok-kyun who had persuaded him to take his time. Returning right away would only get him hunted down like a dog; he has to ensure that he can win the fight before jumping headlong into it. And so, Kim Ok-kyun had instructed him to find a way for him to succeed before making the journey home.
The next day, Yoon-kang heads out with Sang-chu, disguised as peddlers. He puts Sang-chu to the task of finding out why his father was framed, then heads to Soo-in’s home. He ducks out of sight as she and Jan-yi arrive from a day of browsing the shops, and watches with an intense look in his eyes.
Soo-in has spent another day trawling the shops in dissatisfaction (and chased away the clientele by complaining about the shopkeeper’s sneaky tactics for passing off lesser merchandise as more valuable). They run into Ho-kyung on his way out, who offers to inquire about the Japanese man for her. When she tells him he needn’t trouble himself over her concerns, Ho-kyung says that it would be his pleasure.
His manner is so swoonworthy that Jan-yi gushes to Soo-in, assuming that they’re heading toward marriage. Soo-in protests that they’re not in that kind of relationship and changes the subject, intent on finding another camera to purchase.
Jan-yi asks if nothing interests her aside from the camera, because she used to be full of interest in the world and new ideas. But Soo-in has become jaded now and says flatly that it’s all useless, and that even with Joseon opening up to the outside world, the status quo has remained. Everyone who’d dreamed of revolution has died for nothing, she says—Teacher Hyun Am, Scholar Oh Kyung, Park Jin-han… and Yoon-kang.
“What has changed?” she asks bitterly. “I won’t do that again. I’ve forgotten everything now—the young master and Yeon-ha, all of it.”
Oof. Heavy words for Yoon-kang to overhear. He trudges back to his room and takes out the shattered compass he still carries with him. He remembers Soo-in’s words the last time they saw each other, when she’d begged him to remain alive and promised they wouldn’t part again when they reunited.
Sang-chu returns with a lead: the name Sohn Taek-soo. That’s the man who “discovered” that Park Jin-han was a traitor, who was really Choi Won-shin’s mole. He has since retired from being a soldier and lives in luxury—and interestingly, Sang-chu has noticed a strange figure lurking around Sohn Taek-soo, a police officer.
Aw, is it best friend Jung-hoon? We cut to him next, as he’s mulling over the facts: He’s sure that Sohn Taek-soo is working for somebody bigger. Ha, then he gets caught drinking during work hours by the new boss—it’s Officer Moon, who was Dad’s second-in-command, newly appointed to the police station.
Officer Moon explains that King Gojong called him back to the city to reopen the gunman case in secret. He has Officer Moon in charge, who has in turn decided that Jung-hoon will work with him, having been the only policeman to participate in the investigation three years ago.
Hilariously, though, Jung-hoon has no stomach for dangerous work and protests that he only got involved for the reward. Officer Moon is unfazed, telling him that he already told the king that they’d be working together—does Jung-hoon mean to flout the king’s order? Gulp.
Officer Moon meets with Gojong to report his newest findings, and now we get an official name for the society of Sugu supporters led by Lord Kim, which calls itself Suhogye. Officer Moon has identified the key players involved in the organization, but now he must find proof of their actions. His first step is going after the mole Sohn Taek-soo.
That night, Yoon-kang dons yet another persona as he takes out his rifle and arms himself with ammo. He arrives outside Sohn Taek-soo’s home just a step behind Jung-hoon, who lurks outside, resigned to an all-night stakeout. I’m glad that Yoon-kang has a buddy in the police force but you sorta wonder how he got so high up, given how unobservant he is; Yoon-kang easily leaps over the wall right behind him.
Shortly thereafter, Sohn Taek-soo awakens with a start to finds his wife bound and gagged. A gun presses into the back of his head and Yoon-kang growls a name: Park Jin-han.
He demands to know who ordered Park framed, who shot the gun, who’s masterminding the plot, everything. “The second you say you don’t know,” he warns, “you die.”
He gives him to the count of three, and Sohn starts blubbering that spilling anything will get him and his family killed. He swears that all he did was follow orders and begs for mercy. Yoon-kang counts to three and Sohn Taek-soo braces for death… but the shot doesn’t come.
Instead, Yoon-kang orders him to convey a message to his boss: Meet him in two weeks at the place where Park Jin-han died. If that man doesn’t come, then Sohn dies.
Jung-hoon catches a glimpse of Yoon-kang as he exits the property, and does a clumsy job of giving chase through the neighborhood. He finally stops him at swordpoint in the road but Yoon-kang knocks him out pretty easily, then props him up by a gate and smiles to see his old buddy. Then it’s off into the night.
The queen tells the king that it’s pointless to revive the investigation now, as all the clues will have disappeared. Gojong replies that while the culprits are alive, the clues exist, adding that Park Jin-han died because of him. For his sake, he must fight on.
Soo-in’s father is an official state interpreter, and he draws the notice of the Suhogye members for being constantly at the king’s side. They surmise that these meetings could be a cover for the king plotting something in secret, and that Interpreter Jung may be more of a co-conspirator than mere interpreter, given his support of Kaehwa scholars in the past. Once again the ministers are antsy to act right away, but Lord Kim holds them back from rash action, saying that they’ll have to observe more closely first.
Soo-in’s mother is beside herself with worry over her obsession with the newest merchandise, and urges her husband to do something about it. Interpreter Jung is much less concerned, however, saying that it’s much better to see her out and about than shut in her room, which is how she spent most of her time following Yoon-kang’s death.
Jung-hoon reports of his mid-stakeout attack to Officer Moon, positing that he has become a target himself. He offers to remove himself from the case, but Officer Moon drily rejects that suggestion and Jung-hoon finds himself stuck. He is such a wimp.
Speaking of wimps, Sohn Taek-soo heads out the next day to deliver the message to his boss. Sang-chu tails him.
Choi Won-shin comes by to see Yoon-kang, who puts on his supercilious front to say that he’s uninterested in further talks. But today Choi is in hardass mode and reminds Yoon-kang that he’s merely Yamamoto’s representative—he’ll want to hear him out or risk bringing harm to his employer.
“Are you threatening me?” Yoon-kang demands. “If that’s how it sounds to you,” Choi Won-shin replies.
Yoon-kang glares at him, looking thoroughly irate—and then suddenly bursts into laughter. He declares that he likes Choi after all, and agrees to chat over drinks.
With a much more open mind this time, Yoon-kang opens discussions about the proposed deal. He guesses that Choi Won-shin will want to buy Japanese-made industrial products and distribute them in Joseon, and in turn will sell something to Japan. What is that?
Choi’s plan is ambitious: gold mining. Yoon-kang points out the large sums required to pursue the project, but Choi has already begun much of the preparations and promises hefty returns on investment. That’s why he needs Yamamoto’s help in financing. And with the advent of explosives, he can speed up the process by ditching the traditional pickaxes in favor of firepower, and has recruited an explosives specialist from China.
Yoon-kang wants a closer look at the details but gives his initial assent, and the deal is on.
Sang-chu follows Sohn Taek-soo through the city, but his presence goes detected and Sohn manages to surprise-attack him. The two men engage in a rather bumbling fight that ends badly for Sang-chu, and he loses Sohn in the process.
Choi Won-shin returns home in good spirits, telling Hye-won that the meeting with Hanjo went well. She balks at the idea of inviting him back to the house after the deal is wrapped, but he warns that they aren’t the only developers looking into mining, so they must take care to keep their contacts close.
It’s a salient point to make, because just then they receive word that the mining technician has not arrived as planned—he was lured away for double his promised fee. It’s a huge blow.
Yoon-kang is disappointed to hear that Sohn Taek-soo got away, and Sang-chu worries that the bad guys will kill him before they can get to him—he’s now a liability to them. But Yoon-kang is counters that if they kill Sohn, they’d be giving up their chance to find him, the mysterious gunman.
Ho-kyung has found out where the Japanese traders are staying, which is promising news for Soo-in, who’s anxious to recover her camera. They plead for a meeting with Hanjo with Sang-chu, and as Soo-in makes her case, Yoon-kang recognizes her voice. Stiffening in alarm, he steals a glance at her from his room.
Yoon-kang issues orders in Japanese, and Sang-chu turns them away. Ho-kyung assures her they can return another day, but Soo-in notes an opening when the two sidekicks get distracted with other matters. Seizing the moment, she darts behind them and she races for Hanjo’s quarters, giving Yoon-kang barely a moment to turn away before she throws open his door.
Yoon-kang keeps his back to her and speaks only in Japanese while Soo-in hurriedly explains about her camera. Sang-chu quickly intervenes and pulls her away, leaving Yoon-kang to deal with his turbulent emotions.
Soo-in and Ho-kyung are pushed out more forcibly this time, but she can’t shake that niggling feeling that’s only grown with this encounter. “It’s like he’s hiding something,” she says. “Otherwise, he’d have no reason to avoid me like this.” She vows to find out what he’s hiding and recover her camera.
Sohn Taek-soo finds Choi Won-shin at his mountain headquarters to report his encounter with the stranger. The man knew details about Park Jin-han’s death and carried a state-of-the-art gun, which is a fact that certainly piques Choi’s interest. He mobilizes his two key assassins (the gunmen from before), and we see that Choi is cultivating a small army of gunmen and training them up in the mountains.
The second assassin, Moo-deok, is sent out to take care of the problem. Yoon-kang observes him arriving at Sohn Taek-soo’s house, where he informs Sohn that a hideaway has been secured for Sohn to escape to temporarily.
I’m skeptical about the existence of a safehouse and it turns out so is Sohn Taek-soo, who gets nervous during the ride. When he insists that he didn’t breathe a word of anything to the gunman, Moo-deok says it’s not Sohn that they want—it’s the guy following him. Ah, so he did notice Yoon-kang after all.
But Sohn can’t see any sign of Yoon-kang and decides this is a trick, and so he turns around and rides back the way he came. Moo-deok grabs his gun and pursues.
Yoon-kang isn’t too far behind, so it’s not long before Sohn Taek-soo comes riding toward him. Seeing Yoon-kang grab his rifle, Sohn turns around again and darts off in yet another direction.
Which means that a few seconds later, it’s Yoon-kang and Moo-deok who come face to face in the field, both clutching rifles.
The gunmen react simultaneously, spurring their horses toward each other while raising their weapons, galloping at full speed. They aim. They fire.
Both bullets land—in arms, nonfatal—and Yoon-kang falls off his horse. Quick as a flash he whips the gun around and fires a second shot, which flings the gun out of Moo-deok’s hand. Unarmed, Moo-deok decides to beat a hasty retreat and rides off.
Moo-deok arrives back at headquarters and reports to Choi Won-shin. He’s been thoroughly spooked by the encounter—not only did the gunman get a clear look at his face, his speed and strength was uncanny. He describes it as feeling like Park Jin-han had come back to life with a gun instead of a sword in hand. Not words to take lightly.
Choi Won-shin instructs him to take their trainees and lay a trap. But before they kill the gunman, make sure to find out his identity and his agenda.
Soo-in visits with Hye-won, her thoughts still on her lost camera equipment. She’s legitimately fascinated by the newfangled technology that allows you to capture images with absolute precision, but I do think her father’s assessment is astute, and she seems to have transferred all of her fixations into this one object as a sort of coping mechanism.
In any case, Hye-won is struck with an idea and offers to help her recover the camera. Soo-in cheers up in gratitude, and Hye-won asks for a favor in return.
Yoon-kang reviews the mining plans with Choi Won-shin, who for the moment doesn’t reveal the loss of their technician. They have one on the way, he assures Yoon-kang.
As Hye-won escorts Soo-in along, she explains that it belatedly occurred to her that Soo-in has experience dealing with explosives. Ohhhhhh. Soo-in protests that her experience is limited, but Hye-won assures her that she won’t have to do much today—the merchants will just want proof that she knows her way around gunpowder. This is just until they find a new technician.
The ladies arrive at the meeting, Soo-in with fireworks kit in hand. Yoon-kang sees her first, his eyes widening in alarm while Soo-in makes her bow, but the moment she lifts her eyes, the kit falls to the ground.
She recognizes Yoon-kang at first sight, gasping, “Young master!”
How much do I love all of Yoon-kang’s personas? I expected Hanjo to be different from the Yoon-kang we’d gotten to know for the obvious reasons—he’s aged, he’s become more jaded, he’s working a disguise—but I hadn’t thought he’d be such an ass, and it’s kind of great. Hanjo himself is terrible, of course, but because we know he’s completely justified in his treatment of his father’s murderer, it gives me special type of gratification to watch Choi bending over backwards to please him. I imagine this is what waiters feel like when they spit into the food of a particularly nightmarish customer: Choi might not know why he’s being treated this way, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it.
It also gives Hye-won a chance to shine, because she has always seemed to be a strong, decent person with a solid sense of righteousness. I find her interactions with her father telling and insightful, and would even go so far as to say that Choi Won-shin’s relationship to Hye-won mitigates my opinion of him as a cold-blooded killer and lackey. It’s through his association with her that he seems not quite so bad, which says a lot about her.
It makes Hye-won interesting in a different way than Soo-in, though I wouldn’t paint it as a better-worse dichotomy. In fact, I like this jaded Soo-in more, because while her bright-eyed idealism was admirable, it was also quite naive, and now that she knows the world as it is, she has a more rounded perspective. It doesn’t mean she’s lost her wonder in modern things, but it gives her more complexity, and that’s something she needs to balance out Yoon-kang’s transformation—it wouldn’t do to have one side remain sheltered while the other side developed dimension and depth.
I had fully expected the reunion to come much later, with lots of angsty near-misses, so I’m pleased that they’ve come face to face so quickly. I’m sure Hanjo will deny it till the cows come home, as heroes-in-disguise always do, and you know, that narrative tension is something I always find deeply gratifying so have at it. But even if that’s not quite your thing, it’s worth it to give Soo-in the chance to react to it, which will be revealing in its own way. (And if that comes with more scenes of Lee Jun-ki soulfully staring with pain in his eyes, I’ll take that too. What can I say, it’s a good kind of pain.)
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 4
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 3
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 2
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 1
- Kolorful Palette: Gunnin’ for Gunman [Joseon Gunman]
- Oh Snap! Joseon finger guns
- Meet the cast (posters) for Joseon Gunman
- Lee Jun-ki goes gunslinging for Joseon Gunman
- “And now… the age of the sword has ended”
- Oh Snap! Oh my god, finally