Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 8
After the emotional roller coaster ride of the last episode, this one was all about getting Gil-dong back on track on his hero’s journey. Like father, like son—Gil-dong’s motivation to protect his siblings strongly resembles Amogae’s own when he first became the “Great Ikhwari Elder” that it makes me worry as I think about the dangerous path ahead. However, despite all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to reuniting their once-happy family, there’s definitely an undercurrent of hope that things are starting to look up for our underdog Mighty Child.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Nok-soo goes to find the mat merchant in the early morning to discuss his suspicions about Gil-dong, but he’s on his way somewhere else while wearing white garb. He tells her that the world has flipped upside down because the sky has fallen, and it’s unclear whether he’s addressing the king’s death or the appearance of the Mighty Child.
But in his last words, he warns her that Gil-dong is not the Chosen One. It looks like she wants to question him further, but he speeds away.
It turns out the mat merchant is actually EUNUCH KIM (Park Soo-young), the most trusted advisor of the Crown Prince. When he’s announced into Yeonsangun’s chambers, the prince-turned-king welcomes him with open arms and proceeds to weep in his embrace.
As the eunuch comforts his royal charge, saying that he’s now the owner of all the earth, Yeonsangun’s expression turns inscrutable. Perhaps the burden of such responsibility suddenly weighs heavily on the young new ruler.
The gisaeng watch as people cry on the streets, proclaiming their grief that the king has passed. Ga-ryung wonders aloud to Wolhamae because she thought the king (who was believed to be a divine being) wasn’t supposed to die. Wolhamae recalls that this is a natural occurrence because when she was young, she remembers that the previous king’s father died.
Ga-ryung then spots Gil-dong, currently walking around in a daze, and she tries to find out what’s wrong. He asks her about when he first came to the gibang, and she tells him that he looked like a crazy person with the arrows sticking out of his back and a purple ribbon tied around his wrist.
Immediately, he seizes on the existence of the purple ribbon, because he now remembers that was his last connection to Eorini. When Ga-ryung tells him that Nok-soo has it, he goes to search for it in her room and finds it tucked away in the small jewelry box she keeps. He cries as he thinks of his lost sister, who could now be Choongwongoon’s sex slave for all he knows. Determined to find his family again, Gil-dong packs his bags and prepares to leave.
His lover Nok-soo comes in while he’s packing, and she confesses that she didn’t give the ribbon to him because she thought he would leave her. He lets her know gently that he isn’t upset with her.
He can only blame himself for falling under her spell and forgetting about his dire situation, he says. He still loves her, but he has to go to find his family. When she looks up at him tearfully, he promises to come back for her, and grasps her hand tightly.
Although his parting with Nok-soo is bittersweet, at least he says his goodbye to her. To Ga-ryung, he doesn’t even spare a glance, and she curses at him for his indifference as he strides away into the distance.
Gil-dong searches everywhere for any sign of Eorini. High and low, far and wide, he asks everyone he can if they’ve seen a little girl with a purple ribbon tied around her wrist. He even goes back to Ikhwari, but he discovers that it’s no longer the place he remembers from his childhood. Conditions have deteriorated to the point that the once-bustling market streets are now empty, with only a few ailing citizens here and there.
Somehow, he finds Eop-san’s half-paralyzed father, and they have a heartfelt reunion. As they eat together, Eop-san’s father tells him about the aftermath of what happened after Amogae’s arrest—how the entire town of Ikhwari fell as Choongwongoon’s soldiers proceeded to persecute the rest of the townspeople who had shady backgrounds.
Eop-san’s father recounts how he had to threaten his son with his own life in order to get Eop-san to leave without him, because he didn’t want to be a burden. He also tells Gil-dong about Amogae, who was rumored to have died under cruel torture and then thrown into the sea to defray costs of an actual burial.
After hearing this news about his father, Gil-dong goes to his mother’s grave with only a jug of wine. He collapses in front of the burial mound, cries sorrowfully, and asks whether everyone is up in heaven with her. Pouring out his grief in front of her, he vows to bring their family back together in front of her, dead or alive.
A while after Gil-dong has left, Magistrate Eom, also in mourning whites, ambles up the long mountain, grumbling that this is a fool’s errand and that he’ll probably find no one there this time too. But when he discovers the empty jug of wine that Gil-dong left behind, he’s shocked to learn that someone has come by.
Wolhamae presses Nok-soo to join the new king’s personal troupe, urging her to remember her lofty ambitions of making the king her man before she met Gil-dong. She blames him for Nok-soo’s complacency now, but Nok-soo just continues ignoring the steady stream of nagging while adjusting her ceremonial fan.
We learn from Wolhamae that Gil-dong has already been gone for several months without sending a single message, but Nok-soo says she’ll wait. Suddenly, Ga-ryung rushes in with disturbing news: A fellow gisaeng has been stabbed in the eye by a regular client of hers who became jealous that she’d find another man.
The apprentice gisaeng are crowded around in the stabbed girl’s room, wailing in distress as they see what could potentially be in store in their own futures. After a while, Nok-soo screams for them to stop their wretched crying, because she knows that no one will save them. When one young gisaeng apprentice says she wants to see her mother, Nok-soo coldly reminds her that her mother sold her into prostitution, and leaves the room.
However, when she’s back in her own chambers, we see that Nok-soo is not as unfeeling as she seems. Her entire body wracks with sobs as she despairs for the fates of girls like her, and she makes the resolution to enter Yeonsangun’s palace.
So when Gil-dong returns from his journey, he only finds empty rooms in the gibang and one lone person: Ga-ryung. She tells him that the others left for the palace a while ago, that she was the only one who waited for him until the end, never giving up hope. He doesn’t respond, but it’s clear from his expression that he wanted someone else (ahem Nok-soo ahem) to be waiting for him.
Ga-ryung follows him, and at first he thinks it’s because she needs money. But she smiles up at him brightly and asks if he’s running from the law as she offers to help him. She tells him she’d be a good cover story as his sister, and she even promises to address him formally as “Orabeoni” (old word for “oppa” with similar connotations). Annoyed now, he turns back to shake her off, but he is reminded of Eorini and can’t seem to bring himself to reject her.
Despite not being a willing travel companion, Gil-dong is a gentleman in all circumstances. Even though he would have been fine with sleeping in the communal public room of the inn, he shows his consideration for Ga-ryung by arranging for a private room instead, because she might be uncomfortable sleeping with a bunch of strange men.
She gets excited for a moment, her heart fluttering because it’s her first time spending a night with a man. But when they get in, he falls asleep straight away in a dead snore, much to her disappointment. She seems miffed, but then she goes to watch over his sleeping face with an adorably infatuated fascination.
When he wakes up, Gil-dong is surprised to see her face so close to his. Her hand is tightly grasped around his sleeve, and he gently puts it back as he goes outside to look at the stars. In the lonely night, Gil-dong hums to himself, reflecting on his time with the enchanting Nok-soo. He remembers her beauty, their deep connection, and his dreams of a future with her.
Meanwhile, Nok-soo is in the palace thinking of him as well, singing the sad song about the blue river while the other girls around her chitter excitedly about the king’s impending visit. Even Wolhamae has entered the palace with (far-fetched) hopes that she’ll be able to entice the king.
Yeonsangun enters with the Eunuch Kim behind him, but Nok-soo doesn’t seem too surprised by his presence. The musicians start playing, and the girls who have been assembled to be part of Yeonsangun’s musical troupe begin to sing a beautiful song in unison.
The new king closes his eyes and carefully listens to the pitch and tone of their melody. Nok-soo takes this time to carefully look at the man she once wanted, never taking her eyes off his concentrated expression.
She adds her voice to the others, singing in tune with them, but when Yeonsangun opens his eyes, he expresses his dissatisfaction with the level of their musicality. He says that they’re not good enough to perform yet, and he stands up and leaves in disappointment while Nok-soo still has a look of curiosity in her eyes.
Gil-dong buys large quantities of food from open mart stalls, while Ga-ryung continues to trail him like a puppy following her master. She helps him choose the best quality fruit and produce. It’s the Joseon version of adorable couple grocery shopping.
When she asks what he’s planning on doing with all that food, jokingly asking him if he’s setting up for a death anniversary, it turns out she was right. The scene cuts to Gil-dong, who is again at his mother’s grave, but this time with a feast full of funeral food as an apology offering for last time, when he only came with a jug of wine.
The ever-helpful Ga-ryung shows him how to set up the table correctly, and gives him space to talk to his dead loved one. But he tells his mother that she is not the girl he told her about earlier. (Aww, poor Ga-ryung.)
Then, Magistrate Eom shows up on the burial hill, and Gil-dong is (rightly) furious to see him. He grabs the traitorous magistrate by the collar and tells him, “I promised myself I’d kill you if I ever saw you again. Die! You die, I die. Let’s die together!”
Magistrate Eom can barely breathe from Gil-dong’s stranglehold, but he rasps out one name: “Amogae.” He lets Gil-dong know that his father is still alive, and shocked, the younger man falls back. He leads Gil-dong to a small peasant hut in the middle of nowhere, and tells him that it’s where his father is.
Gil-dong hesitates at door, almost not believing that his father will be on the other side. When he finally opens it, he sees Amogae, who is much changed from his former “Great Ikhwari Elder” self.
His hair and beard are unkempt, and whereas before, when his eyes were always sharp-looking and decisive, a glazed look has settled over them. His leg juts out at an awkward angle, but I don’t know if Gil-dong processes all of this, because he just bursts into tears in front of his father like a little boy again. Amogae recognizes and embraces his son without a word, and they have a moment of heartfelt family reunion.
Gil-dong’s brother, on the other hand, is far away, having taken on the task that was given to him by the scholar’s will. Gil-hyun wears noblemen’s clothes and marvels at himself. He passes by a poster that announces the dates for the civil service exam, but when other fellow noblemen scholars gathered in front of the poster ask if he’s going to take this one, he abruptly turns away, saying that he’d never do such a thing.
However, while he’s walking, he looks wistfully at the brushes and ink stones being sold by a street merchant. He always did have a dream of becoming a government scholar, but his birth status prevented him from pursuing that career. He tells himself that he’s being ridiculous to begin thinking of it again, but he meets someone on the streets (Ahn Nae-sang), and this stranger asks whether he needs money to take the test, implying that he would be willing to pay for it.
Mistress Jo follows Heotaehak and his son, telling them again to search for Gil-dong’s body. It seems like she’s been pestering them for a while, because Heotaehak doesn’t even listen as she tries to tell them that Gil-dong is not a typical human, and that they can’t be sure that he’s dead until they find his body.
While Heotaehak’s son seems to be more willing to listen to her, ultimately, he also brushes her concerns aside. She is turned away by him gently, but her expression shows that she’s still unsatisfied.
Later that night after reuniting with his father, Gil-dong conferences with Magistrate Eom, who apologizes profusely to him for what he did to his family. He says that he doesn’t deserve forgiveness, but he did his best in putting his life on the line to make sure that at least Amogae came out alive without anyone knowing any better.
Inside, Ga-ryung makes herself useful by finding rice and cooking porridge for Amogae, who looks like he hasn’t eaten in days. When Gil-dong sees her spoon-feeding his ailing father, he snaps at her, perhaps thinking that she’s overstepping her bounds. He shoos her out, and when she leaves, Amogae asks Gil-dong what happened to the rest of their family. Gil-dong lies to his father, telling him that Gil-hyun and Eorini are doing well somewhere safe, and that as soon as Amogae gets better, he’ll take him to them.
But it’s clear that Amogae hasn’t lost all his marbles yet, because he doesn’t believe Gil-dong. Magistrate Eom tells Gil-dong he’ll find a way for Amogae and him to live together quietly and peacefully like he originally wanted to. This time though, it’s Gil-dong who doesn’t listen.
He wants to bring Soboori and the rest of the gang back together and seek revenge against the people who tore his family apart. Magistrate Eom warns him that those gangsters were self-serving and all fled at the news of Amogae’s death. (Does he not realize the irony of his statement? He was the one who caused the situation that made them flee in the first place!)
Keutsae has been working as a farm day laborer, and Soboori as the neighborhood crackpot fortune-telling face reader. But he’s absolute rubbish at this particular career path—thinking that his client is an old maid waiting for love, he predicts that she will find a successful husband who just passed his civil servant exam, but it ends up that she’s already married with four kids.
So when Gil-dong shows up, Soboori is ecstatic to see him, and is even more excited when he hears the news that Amogae is alive. He wants to go immediately to see his old friend, but Gil-dong says they need to round up the rest of the gang. Keutsae is taking a dump in the forest when they find him. They wave hello, and he lunges toward them to grab them in a hug. But seeing his hand still dirty from wiping his bottom, they flee as he tries to embrace them with his poop-covered hand.
The next man they go find is Ilchung, the gambling monk, who is at it the tables again, but definitely with less joie de vivre than before. When he hears his friends’ voices loudly from next room, he bursts the door open, and his face makes a wide grin when he sees them make a half-irreverential Buddha sign at him in greeting.
Segul, when they grab him, is drunk-reminiscing about the good ole days in Ikhwari, when he ran freely like he owned the world. Gil-dong and company come to carry him off and make excuses to Segul’s drinking buddies, saying that their master often makes meaningless unrealistic comments when he’s inebriated.
Yonggae has become a mover, and as soon as he sees the others, he turns his back and starts crying (because secretly, he’s the most emotional of all of them). He asks what took them so long, and still crying, he hugs Gil-dong, who pats his back fondly.
At Amogae’s hut, Ga-ryung fills the silence with background chatter, but he isn’t really listening because his heart is with Gil-dong, who has gone to find his Ikhwari friends. Magistrate Eom seems to be fed up with her jabber though.
When the gang arrives, they all sink to their knees in front of their Great Ikhwari Elder, who has become a decrepit old man. Together, they all cry with grateful joyous tears, and Soboori is the first to embrace Amogae in a tight hug. Gil-dong watches the reunion with an approving look.
When they see Magistrate Eom, however, their attitude turns menacing. They run after the sly magistrate, wanting to kill him. He begs Gil-dong to stop them, but that plea falls on deaf ears.
A couple beatings later, Magistrate Eom sits bruised all over in the gangster circle as they share food and drinks, reveling in meeting each other again. Ga-ryung brings out some snacks, and they’re all curious about her relationship with Gil-dong.
Of course, they suspect that the two young people are a couple, despite Gil-dong’s vehement protests. Ga-ryung plays along with them, implying that she followed Gil-dong because they’re on more-than-friendly terms, and calls him the familiar “Orabeoni” (which can mean brother, but also honey in some situations).
Delighted by their teasing of her and Gil-dong, she says that she’ll bring them more food and drink. Gil-dong follows her to the kitchen, and she stutters in front of him to explain that she only went along with the others’ jokes because it is half-true (she did follow him), but he’s not upset because of that.
He asks why she’s serving them food, and she replies that obviously it’s because she’s the only woman around to do the hostess’ duties. With a stern expression, Gil-dong tells her that just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean that she needs to serve them. (Yay, a hero espousing modern feminist principles, making us like him more!) He then tells her they’ll get their own food and drinks, so she should not serve them.
In Heotaehak’s life, it seems like Choongwongoon has stayed a close ally, but the royal is as psychopathic as ever. He engages in unpredictable rages with Heotaehak and his son, who act abjectly servile in front of him.
When Heotaehak and his son bring up the topic of a loan he asked for Choongwongoon to help him out with, the royal kicks him in the chest, saying that he’s their superior and not their dog, so they should not expect things from him. He expresses that he’s still angry that they didn’t deliver Eorini alive to him. (So if she’s not with Choongwongoon, where is she?)
Back at temporary Bandit HQ, Gil-dong has gathered the rest of the gang in a midnight meeting with Amogae secretly listening in from the outside. Gil-dong lets it be known he wants justice to be served to Choongwongoon, not in the middle of the night like Yonggae suggests, but publicly, so that everyone learns what a corrupt decayed individual the royal is.
Gil-dong makes a bow to his bandit hyungs and asks for their help on his mission. He appeals to their loyalty and all the hard work they put into building Ikhwari, which turned into nothing once Choongwongoon got his way. He tells them that although he did have dreams of becoming a farmer because he hated his father’s thug life, he now thinks differently. He vows to live as a thug if that means he can take Choongwongoon down. He says he is willing to give up his humanity, if that’s what it takes, and that he’ll become a monster to get his revenge.
At the end of his impassioned speech, Ilchung laughs, and the atmosphere goes from heavy to light, because he tells the others that this is just like the time when Amogae first reached out to them to create their brotherhood. And together, the gang laughs and reminisces about their first meeting that ended in a comic fistfight.
They agree to help Gil-dong—it’s not even a question. Gil-dong outlines his plan to first get to Heotaehak and his son, and then to use them to trap Choongwongoon.
Later that night, as Gil-dong turns over hot coals in their little room, Amogae asks him whether he’s serious about his plans to take revenge. When his son confirms his determination to go after the formidable Choongwongoon, the corner of Amogae’s lips tilt upward as he says: “You’re crazy,” and Gil-dong smiles back at the half-compliment.
Woot woot! The Amogae Avengers are back together and ready to pulverize some royal tushie. Despite not much plot action happening in this episode, it was definitely a good start in setting up the future relationships amongst Gil-dong, his loyal crew, his to-be-sweetheart Ga-ryung, and his faraway tragic love Nok-soo. I love how it looks like Gil-dong is becoming a mini-giant version of his father, who is such a badass character. True, I don’t agree with many of Amogae’s actions (including murder, lying, bribery, etc.), but the motivation behind them and the intelligence with which he executed them really kept me on the edge of my seat in the first few episodes of Rebel. So of course, I’m grateful that the man is alive for now, but it does lead to the question: What’s his purpose now?
He has already imparted all his ideals regarding equality and justice to his children, and he’s set up a support network for Gil-dong to use in his revolution, so I’m guessing his character has survived this ordeal to die a more tragic death that will urge Gil-dong to take drastic action. This brings me to discuss Gil-hyun and Eorini: I think we’ll see more of her story soon, and since she’s not with Choongwongoon, my worry for her has decreased significantly (although that darkened box she’s in doesn’t look too good). I’m curious to see how Ahn Nae-sang’s character will shape Gil-hyun’s future, and whether he’ll become a government goody two shoes who ends up clashing with his brother.
Unlike Gil-dong, I’ve always gotten the impression that Gil-hyun believed in the absoluteness of the absurd social caste system that relegated their family into slavehood from birth. He always seemed like a rule follower, which I guess is paradoxical given his initial chosen profession as the heir to a gangster empire, but he never really challenged anyone or anything in his sphere, which is completely opposite from Gil-dong, who just pursued what he wanted and what he believed from the get-go in despite of opposition from his father and others. If Gil-hyun starts down this new path, I wonder how their brotherly bond will fare, especially if Gil-hyun does end up siding with Yeonsangun.
Speaking of Yeonsangun, I don’t get super evil vibes from him yet, so I wonder what’s going to change that will cause him to become the major antagonist of this story. His father has already died, but he doesn’t seem like he’ll be going on any crazy bloody purges anytime soon as stated in history books, and the psychopathic tendencies of his royal cousin Choongwongoon haven’t shown up in him yet, either. At this point, he’s just a somber handsome young king, and I can see how Nok-soo could be tempted by him, especially during Gil-dong’s absence.
Mostly though, I’m impatient to see more of Gil-dong’s tiger strength. I was promised a Mighty Child, and so far, I’ve gotten lots of scenes of a tiny peanut kid with mega-strength and only two seconds of an adult Gil-dong displaying those awesome powers. Will physical strength actually be important in this story, which seems to be much more about political and social power? Let’s hope that Gil-dong will be cunning as well as strong enough to outwit and crush this system that oppresses and affects all the citizens, from the lowliest slaves to the highest paid gisaengs.
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 7
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 6
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 5
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 4
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 3
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 2
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 1