Joseon Gunman: Episode 7
Family is the name of the cat-and-mouse game in this episode, as it propels the action toward its cliffhanger of an ending (this drama sure does have the cliffhanger format down, doesn’t it?). But perhaps the actual question should be: Who’s the cat and who’s the mouse? Our hero has been carefully plotting his revenge mission and seems to have things under control… but does he really? With his shrewd enemy testing him at every turn, is he still one step ahead of the rest of the field, or is he heading for a rude awakening? It’s enough to keep you tied up in knots. Good knots.
SONG OF THE DAY
Lucid Fall – “가족” (Family) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Yoon-kang arrives at the port where his sister is to be shipped out and makes his way toward the building where she is being kept. He is immediately surrounded by Choi Won-shin’s waiting guards, who block his path with swords drawn.
Yoon-kang levels his gun at them, and Choi speaks to him calmly, saying that they are merely on the lookout for thieves. All he requests is that Yoon-kang identify himself, asking for a look at his unmasked face. His right-hand man starts to advance, but everyone freezes when Yoon-kang cocks the gun and shoots—he aims off in the distance, but it’s enough to make everyone duck, and he darts past them in a flash.
Hearing the gunshot, Officer Jung-hoon sends half his team out to follow, leaving the other half with Soo-in and Ho-kyung as they wait for the slaves to be transported.
Yoon-kang is pursued by Choi’s assassin, who catches up to him on a rooftop and engages him in close combat. They take swings at each other and land some blows, and then Yoon-kang flying-spin-kicks the assassin clear off the rooftop. The man lands hard on the ground below, mostly fine but too late to catch Yoon-kang, who has disappeared.
It also gives Jung-hoon and his officers enough time to catch up and corner the assassin. But Choi Won-shin steps in to tell the officers that this isn’t the man they want—he was merely pursuing the gunman. And since Jung-hoon is mostly concerned about Yeon-ha’s captors, he calls back his men to resume their search for the slave traders.
Yeon-ha and her fellow slaves are loaded into a wagon, and as she boards, she casts one last look around as though hoping her brother will rescue her. As it happens, he’s close by but just misses the departure, arriving at an empty building.
Soo-in and Ho-kyung arrive in the vicinity, with her insisting on just one more look while he tries to persuade her to turn around. They arrive at the now-empty warehouse and each take one side to search—and as she rounds a corner, she sees the masked gunman crouched there. She starts to gasp in surprise, and Yoon-kang darts forward to clap a hand over her mouth.
It’s a tense few seconds as they look right at each other, until Ho-kyung rounds the corner and sees what’s going on. Yoon-kang sizes up the situation and whirls Soo-in so that he’s holding her as a hostage. Ho-kyung begs him to let her go, offering himself as hostage instead, his palpable concern making an impression on both Yoon-kang and Soo-in.
Yoon-kang finds himself in a bind, not really wanting a hostage of any sort but without a clear way out. So it’s a welcome distraction when they hear officers’ voices outside, and Yoon-kang shoves Soo-in at Ho-kyung and makes his escape.
In the distraction, unfortunately, the slave traders slip away unnoticed (though they have to turn back without sending the girls on the boat), and the police don’t even know if Yeon-ha was there to begin with. Choi Won-shin apologizes for his part in the confusion, feigning sympathy for their search and Yeon-ha’s plight. But mostly, he’s upset that his man couldn’t get a look at the gunman’s face, leaving his suspicions unanswered.
Soo-in thanks Ho-kyung for his help, touched but also concerned, asking what he would have done if the gunman had taken him hostage. Ho-kyung confesses that he doesn’t know what he meant to do, and was only thinking of saving her in the moment. She’s grateful to him, but also feels that the gunman had no intention of killing them: “That look in his eyes… For some reason, it made me think that.”
It’s back to the profligate Hanjo act by morning—or rather, midday, since he lazes in bed for so long that his partner Kanemaru has to bark at him to get going for their company’s opening. It’s a necessary act since Choi Won-shin’s spy is watching, but I do enjoy how Kanemaru is so disapproving of his boss when he’d probably be much more in sync with his true nature. But it does the job, since the spy reports back to Choi that Hanjo was with his gisaeng all night and well into the day.
Choi’s assassin (time for a name—it’s Sung-gil) points out that it’s possible Hanjo caught on to the spy and slipped away unseen, but Choi can’t risk this deal on a mere hunch. He needs proof before acting, because Hanjo has Yamamoto’s trust. He instructs Sung-gil to track down those slave traders—if Hanjo is Yoon-kang, he’ll be looking for them.
At his newly opened trading company, Yoon-kang fills in Sang-chu on the events of the last night. Both find Choi Won-shin’s appearance awfully coincidental and worth looking into, and Yoon-kang sends Sang-chu to the police station with a message.
Choi and his entourage arrive with gifts for the company opening, and also to get down to business with talks of the mining deal. On one hand, they’re eager to secure the contract, but on the other, they still need to stall the explosives demonstration. Yoon-kang says that the materials will be arriving tomorrow and is eager to see it asap, pretending not to see why Soo-in would want any delay. She stammers a few excuses like needing time to mix and prepare the materials, and asks for ten days. He gives her three.
Discussions over, now it’s time for drinks. Yoon-kang regales his guests with hilaaaaarious exploits of how his gisaeng kept him up all night long, if yaknowwhaddimean. Hye-won is better than Soo-in at masking her reaction, and sends Soo-in a look to quell her brewing diatribe. Soo-in holds it together enough to excuse herself, then vents to Hye-won that she was completely wrong to have thought him similar to Yoon-kang.
The pressing concern is the explosives demonstration, and Hye-won pleads with Soo-in to do her best with what she knows. Saying that it won’t be her fault if it fails, she presses her to at least go along with things and try, and Soo-in can’t refuse.
Yoon-kang shares some details of his (fabricated) background, such as how he came to work for Yamamoto. There are tidbits that sound borrowed from his real life, such as his father being a swordsman who taught him to fight, and wanting a different life for himself. But on paper, it’s in clear alignment with all the background checks Choi conducted on his own; for now his story holds up. This means it’s more important than ever to pursue the Yeon-ha case for further confirmation.
A flashback lands us in the streets Japan, three years ago. Yoon-kang is beaten and sneered at for being a lowly Korean, but he just spits in his attacker’s face and throws himself into the fight. He’s lightning-fast and skilled with the sword, but more than that, full of rage as he takes down every assailant who comes at him.
A man watches from the crowd and notes his tenacity, offering him a place in his organization (which works with merchants and polices the marketplace). Yoon-kang sneers, until the man adds that they work with Yamamoto and tells him to seek out Hasegawa Hanjo if he’s interested.
So that’s the identity he’s wearing—extra-handy that it’s a real person, lending him more credibility.
Lord Kim meets with Choi Won-shin, having heard that one of his top gunmen was killed. He observes the training of the small army he’s building, and looks pleased at their progress.
Sang-chu delivers the message to the police, and wonders if it’s okay to trust that guy. Yoon-kang just smiles, though, and we cut to Jung-hoon at the station, being his usual hapless and slackerly self. Officer Moon gives him a dressing-down for being more into gibang visits than his work and sends him out to investigate the dead gunman… and somehow, Jung-hoon ends up at the gibang anyway. HA.
He’s beyond excited because of the letter he received, which asks him to meet him alone that night and is signed with his favorite gisaeng’s name. So he’s surprised, confused, then disappointed to find a man sitting in the appointed room, no pretty lady in sight. It’s Yoon-kang, his face averted and hidden underneath a hat, and he instructs Jung-hoon to come in and sit before revealing himself.
Jung-hoon assumes this is Hanjo, burned enough by his assumption the first time to be wary. So even when Yoon-kang outs himself, he eyes him doubtfully and peppers him with questions that only Yoon-kang would know. It’s pretty adorable, going something like this:
Jung-hoon: “When we were training together, when was the first time I beat you with the sword?”
Yoon-kang: “You never beat me.”
Jung-hoon: “There was one time!”
Yoon-kang: “What, that time you threw dirt in my eyes?”
Jung-hoon: “It really is you!”
Jung-hoon cries in relief, and the friends have a touching reunion. Jung-hoon wants to get Soo-in right away, but it’s Yoon-kang who stops him. He argues that he’s still a wanted criminal, so involving her would only endanger her life. He says that it’s better for her to believe him dead and forget him, and warns his friend not to let her find out. “I have died,” he says. “Here in Joseon, you are the only person who can know I’m alive.”
Yoon-kang explains his search for Yeon-ha and asks his friend to come with him right away at the first hint of news.
Interpreter Jung presents the king with his idea for the new government bureau, which would be their vehicle for pursuing the Kaehwa policies of advancement, with offices to handle matters of foreign diplomacy, new weapons development, and other tasks.
As predicted, the Sugu officials protest fiercely, arguing that it was enough to open trade with Japan, but courting relationships with the world at large would be goo much. But it’s really more that they find this new institution a threat to their own power, since it would siphon off responsibilities from the existing state council and ministries. Gojong does have a small number of officials who argue for his plan, though it’s safe to say that the big power players are on Sugu’s side.
Gojong steps up to declare that the creation of the bureau will proceed as planned, warning that the fate of Joseon is at stake and that opposing it would be holding back the nation.
The material for the explosives have arrived and are ready for use, so Yoon-kang observes as Soo-in examines them. She takes issue with the quality of the gunpowder, saying that blacker, spicier soil is best; this appears to have been mixed together hastily with inferior salty soil. Yoon-kang thinks she’s pulling one over on him, and she holds out a handful of the powder, telling him to taste it and see whether it’s spicy or salty.
He grabs her hand before she can shove the gunpowder in his face, and they both freeze at the contact. It takes him a moment to recover his wits, and he barks at her to find better powder if she wants. They bicker back and forth as they make the walk back, with her disgruntled at his lack of trust, and him disgruntling her further by quipping that he trusts people who are trustworthy. She glares and warns him to be ready to apologize when she proves herself in the demonstration.
And then, they find their path blocked by a mob of armed villagers who know of Hanjo and Soo-in’s association to the merchant leader. They’re up in arms about Choi Won-shin’s plan to dig up graves for his enterprise (which explains his exchange with his daughter where they noted, “People care more about the dead than the living”) and accuse Hanjo of putting Choi up to it.
There’s some righteous indignation at play, but also some pretty ugly slurs that get thrown around for Hanjo being a Japanese infidel and for Soo-in for being the “dirty bitch” who would associate with him.
The mob closes in on them, and Soo-in trembles in fear. It’s her reaction that spurs Yoon-kang, who steps in front of her and draws his pistol against the leader, warning him to leave. One man starts to charge, and Yoon-kang shoots into the air, then grabs Soo-in and pulls her along in a run. The mob chases.
They get enough of a head start to duck behind a boulder for cover, hiding while the mob passes them by. Belatedly he registers that she’s grasping his hand tightly, which reminds him of that time they’d hidden under the floorboards holding hands.
She pulls her hand out of his when she realizes it, but now it sparks another memory for her, of the time they’d hidden together when he escaped the city. Just when she’d convinced herself it wasn’t the same man…
They sit for a while to wait out the danger, and she asks why he pulled the gun; she’d been badly frightened that he might kill that old man. Yoon-kang says, “I’m not that kind of person. It’s a violent person who kills someone with a gun.” His gun is for self-defense, he adds.
Soo-in says that carrying a gun can lead to shooting a gun, and that it only takes one shot to kill. That death is cruel, taking life without giving a chance for one last look at the world. Yoon-kang looks at her intently and asks whether she’s ever witnessed this, and she stammers that it’s just common knowledge.
He asks if she still thinks he’s Yoon-kang, wondering how much she must have cared for him to not forget him. She replies, “As long as I live, how could I forget him? It was a short time, but I laughed and cried with him, and even experienced life and death situations. When I think of those times I spent with him, those were the happiest moments of my life.”
She turns the question around on him, and asks if he truly isn’t Yoon-kang. Even when she tells herself he isn’t, it feels as though he is: “Am I under a big misunderstanding? Or am I right and there’s a reason for it?”
He hesitates for the briefest moment, but resumes his Hanjo stance in scoffing at the suggestion.
Hye-won hears the gunshot on her way to meet them and searches the area until she finds them. She’s able to settle upon a compromise with the angry mob that involves performing rites for the dead and compensating the relatives, and apologizes profusely to Yoon-kang for the trouble.
Soo-in is indignant at his response—it’s snappish, though he accepts the apology—and doesn’t understand how Hye-won can be so accommodating, accepting all the blame and being relieved that he wasn’t more upset. Hye-won tells her that she owes him a debt of gratitude, and that he’d saved her life.
“But that’s not the only reason,” she adds, smiling softly. “I’ve seen his unexpected side, though you may not see it.”
The Suhogye members are in an uproar over Gojong’s latest move, although wily old Lord Kim seems more amused than threatened, chuckling that the king managed to up his game. The others yell and argue that he’s overturning the Joseon order of things, while Lord Kim merely decides, “I will have to meet with him. I will have to hear how far he is ready to take this.”
Interpreter Jung is granted a rather lofty government office overseeing other officials, and Ho-kyung congratulates him warmly. He promises to do what he can to help as scholar and unofficial adviser, but Interpreter Jung offers him an official position, wanting to work together in earnest.
Sang-chu is liking this arrangement with the new slave girl Je-mi just fine (looks like a budding crush is in the making), except when he realizes that the clothes she’s washing are Hanjo’s. Eek! Did she just ruin his expensive suits? Sang-chu yelps and fishes out the clothing, but it’s too late and the damage is done.
Yoon-kang is ready to send Je-mi away right then and there, but Sang-chu jumps to her defense and swears he’ll make sure nothing like this happens again. And then he recalls news about Yeon-ha being spotted that diverts Yoon-kang’s attention and makes him snap, “Why are you only telling me this now?!” Sang-chu stammers, “W-well, you didn’t give me a chance and got all mad…”
Too bad all news travels at the same speed to everybody, because Choi Won-shin receives the same tip: They’ve narrowed down Yeon-ha’s whereabouts to a particular gang of slave traders. Both parties set out to find their headquarters.
Yoon-kang goes dressed in his peddler’s costume, but Sang-chu is decked out in nobleman’s clothing, which has him fidgeting awkwardly. He adopts the nobleman’s authoritative voice as he asks the traders about a slave named Yeon-ha, only to hear she was just sold off to a merchant just fifteen minutes ago. Oh no, too slow!
Yep, it’s Choi Won-shin who now leads Yeon-ha away. He sets the trap, planning to hold a party tomorrow and inviting Hanjo to attend.
Yoon-kang returns home empty-handed and devastated.
Soo-in puzzles over a book of instructions to help figure out how to work with her explosives, but doesn’t make much headway—there’s only so far you can go without actually working with the stuff. Her disgruntled maid says sarcastically that she could steal some gunpowder, though the sarcasm is totally lost on Soo-in, who seizes that idea.
Armed with the lie that Hanjo asked her to take a look at the gunpowder, she gets Je-mi to let her in. She “checks” on the stores while hastily grabbing small scoops to tuck away in hidden pouches. She just about makes her nervous getaway, only to run into Sang-chu and drop the pouches. Gulp.
The feast is prepared at the Choi household, and Hye-won notes the new face and hears that her father brought home the slave girl to work. Yeon-ha also tracks the notice of one of the guests, whose gaze lingers in a decidedly creepy way. Less creepy is assassin Sung-gil, who watches Yeon-ha intently, since she’ll be the bait for Hanjo. Who knew the hired killer would be the less creepy option?
Once the gathering is in full swing, Choi Won-shin invites Yoon-kang to take tea separately as they make small talk about the guests and the party. He drops a teaser about bringing home a new slave girl yesterday, then asks whether Soo-in is still under the impression that he’s Yoon-kang.
Yoon-kang laughs it aside, saying that there are just some people who look alike and that those comments won’t bother him anymore. Choi agrees: “There must be many in the world. As long as you’re not blood, it would be difficult to know for certain.”
Then Choi Won-shin excuses himself for a moment, leaving clear the moment for Yeon-ha to enter with the tea tray. And as they set eyes on each other, they freeze. The tea tray drops to the ground with a crash.
Yeon-ha cries out, “Oraboni!” She races toward him and flings her arms around him, while Yoon-kang looks stricken, unmoving. Conflicted.
Choi Won-shin watches from the doorway, looking smug.
Oh no, Yeon-ha! Don’t crush her spirit! It’s one thing to shove aside a best buddy or your sweetheart with a few angry words, but your enslaved kid sister who’s all alone in the world and pinning her every hope on your return? *thud* There goes my heart, falling to my feet.
Of course, that’s exactly what Choi Won-shin is capitalizing on, since even the most hardened vengeance-seeker has his breaking point, right? Choi’s very smart in that regard, testing in small ways first, feeling his way around Hanjo’s edges before going in for the direct blow. He knows when to bide his time and when to strike, which is what makes him a cut above the other assassins. He reminds me a bit of Lord Kim, in fact, in the way that the Sugu powers are always stewing like children ready to throw a tantrum, and he’s the only one with any concept of strategy.
You know, one could argue that Joseon Gunman is playing out some very expected storylines, in that we could probably all see this moment coming from the beginning of the episode; I’ll admit that I was fairly clued in to possibility of this exact cliffhanger ending, so the plot beats didn’t throw me for a curve. So I would say that the strength of the show is not in the story it tells, but in the way that it plays out the familiar narrative: I know how this story ends since it’s classic Count of Monte Cristo, but I’m still sitting on the edge of my seat to see how this show plays it out, and how these specific characters react to these twists.
So the experience for me becomes akin to watching a solid romantic comedy—not in tone or genre, but in the way that my knowledge of the ending doesn’t interrupt my enjoyment. It takes a certain skill of its own in making an expected scenario gratifying, and you’ll often get that when a story has been crafted well—it holds up even if you’re aware of what it’s doing.
I’m curious to know what Yoon-kang’s got planned for the future, because he’s obviously got the long view in mind as he sets his chess pieces in place. He seems able to ward off Choi’s pokes and jabs with nimble words or feet—but that’s for now. I’m partly banking my hopes on the fact that it appears he’s more clued in to Choi’s movements than Choi believes, but I’m also afraid that he’s going to fall into the trap of underestimating his enemy.
And while I have no doubt that Yoon-kang on his own could wriggle out of any tight scenario (or, more probably, kick and punch his way out of it), it’s the loved ones who become a liability, and he’s starting to build up his network again. Which is great (yay, friends! Smiles! Bro-hugs!) but also nerve-racking (more blind spots, hostages, and blackmail sources!). Goddamn it, Love, why you gotta ruin everything all the time? I mean, when you’re not making life worth living and all that.