Orange Marmalade: Episode 5
We enter the Joseon phase of our story, and vampires are living in hiding, getting ready to rise up against the humans who fear and despise them. We get to see our characters from a different perspective, though they face the same issues and challenges as they did in the modern era. Not much has changed in four hundred years, and it’s more than just prejudice that could keep our three main characters apart.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
It’s the 17th century in Hamkyeong province, and two men pull a covered cart down a dark forested road. They’re stopped by a regiment of soldiers, but before they can even state their business the general pulls his sword and slashes one of the men’s ribcage wide open. His eyes glow red, and the wound immediately heals.
The general says, “They’re vampires,” and even more men appear from the shadows with flaming arrows aimed at the cart. They fire, striking the cart and the men pulling it, and now the vampires fight back. Whoa, one of them actually lifts the cart and uses it to bowl down several soldiers at once.
Despite being outnumbered, the vampires have the upper hand in terms of strength and invulnerability to injury, and they manage to kill most of the soldiers. One vampire gets away, while the other is captured with chains that seem to burn and weaken him.
The cart turns out to be full of gold and maps, and we learn that the vampires are planning a widespread uprising. An urgent message is sent to the capital, warning all citizens of monsters who bite human necks for blood. We see another group of soldiers unearthing several dead bodies, all with teeth marks on their necks and wrists.
We see our hero Jae-min, a Sungkyunkwan University scholar, reading the notice out loud to his friend and fellow scholar Shi-hoo, who seems more annoyed than concerned. Shi-hoo wonders if there could really be vampires in the capital, grinning that he’d like to see one and fight him.
Shi-hoo pouts when Jae-min doesn’t want to talk about vampires and ghosts, saying they should have each been born in the other’s family. Jae-min is the scholar born into a warrior family, and Shi-hoo is a warrior from a scholar family.
When Jae-min continues ignoring him, Shi-hoo pretends to lament about the unfairness of his family being stuck with a son with a bad attitude. This finally makes Jae-min laugh, and Shi-hoo nudges his table — hard enough to send it flying. Used to this, Jae-min just calmly sets his things back down as they fall.
Shi-hoo pouts with Jae-min to play with him, suddenly attacking him with a fan. Jae-min defends, then rolls up his book in turn, and it’s on. The two friends spar, and it looks like fun as they kick and throw punches, clearly having done this many times before. They seem pretty equally matched, though Shi-hoo’s inhumanly fancy moves betray his vampire nature. Jae-min still manages to take the victory with a scroll to Shi-hoo’s belly.
Shi-hoo says it’s a pity Jae-min is a scholar, as he’d have made a great warrior if not for his “illness.” Jae-min sobers at this reminder of his weakness, and his father’s disgust that his son passes out every time he sees blood. Shi-hoo looks sorry to have brought it up, and distracts his friend with a few more thwacks.
Shi-hoo escapes over the wall, saying that he’s found a hideout with no reminders of books or ink. He takes the scroll with the vampire warning with him, though he could be punished if he’s caught with it.
In another part of the city, a group of people meet, but their silly antics cause their leader (Ma-ri’s father) to bark at them for acting like badly-behaved humans. He tells them that twenty drained bodies were found, and the blind elder says it must be the Wonsangu clan.
We see the Wonsangu clan, all sleeping in a cave, with Jae-hee (Teacher Han in the present) among them. Their leader, a fierce-looking female vampire, wakes and leads them all out of the cave. She yells at her follower, the one who got away from the ambush in the woods, for letting all their gold be confiscated.
The loss of the money is a harsh blow to their uprising plans, and she complains that the humans will know their identity now, but her lackey says he thinks they already knew. She instructs Jae-hee to send out Huk-bi, which has him darting his eyes at her in surprise, telling him to have the vampires who live on animal blood taken care of.
Jae-min’s father is presented with the results of the autopsies done on the bodies, confirming that there was no blood in any of the corpses. Every one of them had teeth marks on the neck and other parts of the bodies, like canine bites. He tells his assistant that a vampire was captured, and has him secretly collect whatever information he can find.
Ma-ri’s mother prepares bowls of homemade blood for their visitors, and Ma-ri arrives home with reeds to use as straws and a little bouquet of flowers for Mom. She seems like a happy girl in this incarnation, all smiles and sweetness. The visitors drink contentedly, wondering why the Wonsangu clan is so greedy.
Their talk reveals that they were the ones who leaked the information about the Wonsangu tribe’s activities, since they don’t want to see a war started. They just want to live in peace, and to be accepted by the humans.
Ma-ri’s dad tells his friends to lay low and not attract attention, since the humans will be extra-nervous right now. They counter that hiding in Banchon (the Sungkyunkwan grounds) makes them safe since the soldiers aren’t allowed to enter here.
Mom gives Ma-ri a clear liquid to drink, a precursor to the SPA injections, that will protect vampires from the sun. Ma-ri brightly says that she thinks of it as tasting the sun, and they bottle up servings of it to pass out to the local vampires. At the market the next day, the bottles are secretly distributed so that everyone gets their share.
An angry professor singles out Jae-min, demanding to know where Shi-hoo is lately. There are rumors that he’s been out misbehaving at night, and the teacher orders Jae-min to bring Shi-hoo to him by the next morning. So Jae-min goes looking for Shi-hoo’s hideout, which is supposedly out in the forest. He hears a haunting sound, and the music draws him to a glade where he sees Ma-ri playing a reed flute, and he’s struck dumb by her beauty.
She stops playing when he steps on a twig and, ladies’ man that he is, Jae-min turns and flees. Hee. He berates himself for letting his head get muddled by a woman, but he hesitates for just a moment — long enough for a venomous snake to strike his foot.
He works fast, slicing the bite open with his knife and pushing the blood out, but his foot swells at a frightening rate and his vision starts to blur. Luckily Ma-ri finds him like this, and she uses one of her reeds to pierce the cut and starts to suck the blood out.
But despite her good intentions Ma-ri is overcome by the sweetness of Jae-min’s blood, and her eyes glow purple and her fangs pop out. She leans down for a drink, but Shi-hoo arrives just in time and Ma-ri runs in horror. Jae-min gasps out just before losing consciousness, “Don’t go. What’s your name?”
Ma-ri washes her mouth in the river multiple times, reminding herself that she may be in a vampire clan, but she’s not a vampire. She reaffirms her vow never to drink human blood.
Shi-hoo gets Jae-min to a doctor in time to save his life, and he’s taken aside by the professor to talk to him about his nighttime activities. He doesn’t deny it, but the professor says a favor was asked of him and there will be no punishment this time. Shi-hoo asks if it’s fair that exceptions can be made to the rules just because of who a student’s father is, insisting on punishment.
Shi-hoo goes back in to see Jae-min, telling him that he’ll be fine since the poison was extracted in time. He mischievously warns Jae-min not to eat the meat at dinner on a certain day, but refuses to say why.
On the day in question, the students go crazy over the meat that’s so rare in their diets, but regret it later when they all end up with upset stomachs. To make matters worse, one of the bathroom doors is broken, and the frantic boys end up running to the woods to get sick.
Though his foot isn’t healed yet, Jae-min is forced to go out with the few students who didn’t get sick, to investigate the source of the bad meat. The leader of the group is critical of the students who gorged on the bad meat, saying the school shouldn’t admit poor scholars who become gluttonous on the school food.
They single out Ma-ri’s father, a butcher, for selling bad meat to the school. He swears he’s innocent, since some of that same meat went to a noble household and there’s no sickness there. Jae-min is willing to check out the story, but the student leader is too prejudiced to listen and orders Ma-ri’s dad taken away.
During the struggle Ma-ri comes home, and Jae-min reels to see that the girl from the woods is related to the man they’re arresting. His own prejudices come forward when he’s upset that she’s from a butcher’s family, which are considered the lowliest of servants in this era. Back in his room, Jae-min says to himself that he knew Ma-ri wasn’t a noble lady, but… and he shakes sense into himself. How dare a lowly butcher make him feel this way?
Ma-ri’s dad is sentenced to ten days in the stocks, and his family knows that if he doesn’t get blood and the sun-protection drink, he’ll be dead long before then. His clan tries to come up with a plan to break him free, but Mom says she’ll handle it herself.
Shi-hoo finally comes home looking like the cat that ate the cream, and Jae-min angrily informs him of the situation he’s created. Shi-hoo brags that he laced the food with herbs that loosen the bowels, saying it’s good for the students to have their stomachs cleaned out. Jae-min is furious, yelling that an innocent person is being punished for his actions.
Jae-min lets Shi-hoo go when he notices a bruise on his collarbone that’s not healing, but Shi-hoo waves off his questions. Jae-min tells him to straighten up and study for the government exam, but Shi-hoo has no intention of taking it at all. He says ruefully that he’ll pass no matter what if he takes them, because of his father, and his life will never be his own.
Ma-ri decides to take matters into her own hands, and sneaks a bottle of sun-protection drink to her father. That’s pretty brave, considering that she has to walk within feet of the two sleeping guards. She starts to feed her father the drink, but a crow caws and wakes up the guards, and she’s pushed to the ground.
Thank goodness, Jae-min arrives, and he orders the innocent man set free. But he doesn’t have that authority, so he changes tactics and confesses to have tainted the food himself. Ma-ri looks at him like she may think he’s lying, but he walks away without saying a word to her.
Jae-min goes before the professor for punishment, but Shi-hoo is on his knees outside the professor’s quarters, making his own confession. He begs to be expelled, hoping to be set free of this restrictive scholarly life. Jae-min is also suspended for two months, as punishment for lying.
Though Jae-min is still angry with Shi-hoo, Shi-hoo follows him home anyway, like a loyal puppy. Jae-min’s mother is a housekeeper in this timeline, Lady Yang-pyong, and Jae-min tells her to get rid of Shi-hoo. But she knows him well, and he wheedles her into letting him stay and not telling his family.
Jae-min’s father meets with a colleague, whose daughter Ah-ra impresses him with her impeccable manners. They discuss arranging a marriage between Ah-ra and Jae-min, and the matter is settled easily.
Lady Yang-pyong is shocked when the normally-squeamish Jae-min orders raw meat bibimbap, and even goes to the butcher himself for the meat. Aww, that’s so cute. He can’t even watch as Ma-ri’s father cuts the meat, but he gives Lady Yang-pyong a big cheesy grin when she studies him closely. It’s sweet how his eyes dart around, and he wilts when he doesn’t see Ma-ri.
Jae-min’s hands shake when he’s presented with the food, and he asks for some scorched rice to get Lady Yang-pyong out of the room. He runs outside with the bowl to hurriedly feed it to the dog, then sits on it when Lady Yang-pyong comes looking for him. HAHA.
He takes his soiled pants to the forest, supposedly to wash them in the stream but going straight for Ma-ri’s glade. He lucks out and Ma-ri is there, lifting her face to the leaf-dappled sunlight. He approaches her to ask where the place is to wash clothes, and informs her that she has to clean them since it’s her fault they were stained. Wow, Jae-min has no game in either incarnation.
Ma-ri looks at him like he’s nuts, but she takes him to the river. She grins at his fumbling, and takes over, and Jae-min is stunned at her touch. He fantasizes about taking her hand in his, but can’t pull it off for real.
Ma-ri thanks Jae-min for helping her father, saying that she heard he wasn’t even the culprit. He explains that he owed her for saving his life when he was bitten by the snake, but she gets nervous when she remembers how she almost drank his blood.
Jae-min asks what Ma-ri was staring at when he found her today, looking up into the trees, and she says it was the stars. She takes him to her rock to see, but he obviously can’t see the stars since it’s daytime. He’s embarrassed and accuses her of teasing a noble, then immediately backpedals and asks if he made her uncomfortable.
But Ma-ri just smiles and says that yes, she’s a commoner, but that doesn’t make her lowly. She says that if she thinks of herself as precious, then she’s precious. Okay, that’s beautiful. She points up a the sky and suddenly Jae-min sees the “stars” in the way the sunlight twinkles through the leaves.
That evening we find Shi-hoo in a gambling den, standing in a ring and wearing a mask to hide his face. The Wosangu vampire who got away from the forest ambush is there, and he punishes another vampire for letting a scrawny guy like that fight here while he was gone. The other vampire tells him to just wait – the guy can fight.
Sure enough, even though he’s up against a fighter twice his size, Shi-hoo uses his quick reflexes and handily wins the fight. The Wosangu vampire looks at him with a curious expression, but Shi-hoo exits the arena before he can approach him.
Ma-ri makes a meat delivery that night, and she’s cornered by a group of thugs who try to steal her wares. She talks back and they decide to teach her a lesson, and laugh when she brandishes her reed flute at them. But they’re shocked when she neatly fends all of them off with the flute, as Shi-hoo watches from a distance in amazement.
The thugs regroup and all move toward Ma-ri, but Shi-hoo steps in the middle to issue a good beatdown (and tossing them some money for the medicine they’ll need now, ha). When he’s finished he looks for Ma-ri, but she’s already on her way to finish her delivery.
Jae-min’s father informs him of his upcoming marriage to Ah-ra, telling him that he has an obligation to continue the family line. Jae-min may be weak, but Ah-ra’s family is strong and can overcome his disappointing qualities. He tries to object, but his father orders him to obey.
Shi-hoo takes Jae-min to his hideout, offering him a chance to talk about whatever is bothering him. Shi-hoo says that they just bow to their families’ wishes out of habit, but he plans to find his own way. He drops the bomb that he’s met the girl he wants to marry, asking if Jae-min has someone like that too.
Jae-min smiles sadly and says that the first time he saw her, she seemed to be from another world – a magical girl who sees stars in the daytime. Shi-hoo says that he feels the same way about the girl he loves, admiring her fierce spirit. They both watch the sky with smitten expressions, each thinking of the girl they love, and never guessing that they’re one and the same.
Okay, so if I’m honest, I’ve been looking forward to this portion of our story. I’m not familiar with the manhwa – I chose to wait until the drama was over before I read it, because I wanted to be able to recap the show without any preconceived notions. But I understand why many fans of the manhwa are upset that the source material is being changed so drastically (because I swear, there will be Harsh Words if the writer of the Bride of the Water Gods adaptation alters things too much!). But as someone who is experiencing this story for the first time, I find the switch-up of the timelines fascinating, in that it lets us see the characters from different angles. Maybe it’s not true to canon… but as someone unfamiliar with canon, it’s kind of a lot of fun.
It’s strange, but I think I’m enjoying this timeline even more than the previous one. For one, I love sageuks, and it’s fun to see the characters we’re already familiar with in a slightly different setting. For another, I think these incarnations of our main trio are much more innocent and carefree, even though they live in times that are just as precarious for the vampires. Seeing Shi-hoo smile and have fun, even though he’s still rebelling against the system, is a breath of fresh air. Jae-hee’s straight-laced arrogance makes more sense here, since he’s not grouchy because of a situation he created (his anger at his mother’s marriage), but because he was born into a family that wants him to be something he’s not. And Ma-ri, by blessing of being born into a low class, actually has a sort of freedom that comes with being someone that nobody expects much of. She’s still smart and insightful, but she’s not burdened by trying to fit into a system that oppresses her. It’s exactly the opposite – she’s peaceful in knowing her place in the world, even if it’s a common place.
It’s so cute how our characters aren’t all that different four hundred years ago, and play out the same scenarios despite the setting being so different. Jae-min is just as arrogant when he approaches Ma-ri in both timelines, expecting her to be so grateful for his attention that she falls to his feet in gratitude. And he’s just as adorably befuddled when she doesn’t comply either time. And though Shi-hoo has a family in this period, he’s just as separated from them as he is in the present day. Only this time, it’s because he’s a square peg in a round hole, a fighter trying to fit into a family of academics. He wasn’t wrong when he said that he and Jae-min were born into the wrong families – so though their personal situations are different, the two boys struggle with their relationships with their parents in almost identical ways. But the one thing they have in the past that they don’t have in the present, is each other. I loved seeing them as friends here, though I’m sure that won’t last long.
It will be sad when the two friends discover that they love the same girl. I found it fascinating that they both saw her in different ways, ways that reflected their own desires. Jae-min, the scholar and deep thinker, saw her as an almost magical creature, not of this world and to be admired from afar. But Shi-hoo, the fighter and rebel, saw her spirit and strength and loved her for them. They’re both right about her, but neither of them sees her as the whole person that she is. I have a terrible foreboding that this inability of either boy to accept Ma-ri for who she is, fully, will be the downfall of all three of them.