Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 4
The spotlight is once more on Amogae as he creates his own version of utopia in a new home. Despite the sorrow he feels at his wife’s death and his fear for his Mighty Child son’s life, he perseveres through these hardships with a steely inner strength. His clever wits and ambitious vision allows him to establish a stable life with his children that he could never dream of living before, but at what cost?
EPISODE 4 RECAP
On a frozen wintry day, Amogae kneels and drinks beside his wife’s burial mound. In his dreams, her specter comes to him and tells him not to sleep on the cold earth. He reaches for her and asks to stay with her, but she tells him that they’ll be together forever later, and that right now, he needs to return to the children. Gil-hyun and Gil-dong search for their father, who’s still with their mother. When they find him, they yell because they’re alarmed by his unmoving form, but he’s soon shaken awake.
Meanwhile, the cruel mistress of the house gets ready to move back to her family home, fearing the retribution of the current queen if she learns of her dead husband’s treachery. But her eyes are full of poison.
At the brothel, Secretary Eom and Amogae share drinks over dinner while discussing his astounding return from imprisonment and near-death. Amogae thanks Secretary Eom for all his help and reaffirms his promise to ensure that he rises to a high position.
Soon, Amogae’s family and their neighbor’s also get ready to move from their master’s household. Across woodlands and seaside cliffs, they journey to Ikhwari, a haven place for runaways, thieves, and generally people who have nothing to lose. Along the way, Gil-dong notices a pink bird following them, and believes it’s the spirit of his mother watching over them.
As we approach the village, we’re given a closer introduction to Soboori’s group of bandits. Yonggae, who we were introduced to earlier, sits on a boat until he sees a pretty woman walk by. He quickly stands up and practices his pickup lines before greeting her, but she’s already flirting with another man. His friend who corrects the rejected Yonggae on his table manners and etiquette is fallen nobleman SEGUL (Kim Do-yoon).
When they scheme together to cheat at poker, impious Buddhist monk ILCHUNG (Heo Jung-do) catches them in the middle of the act. Late at night, they all gather for a secret meeting at Amogae’s hut, and ordinary KEUTSAE (Lee Ho-chul) takes a final look out before closing the door.
The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss their next raid. Amogae wants to drink while they talk, but he’s quickly shot down by Soboori. The bandits argue between raiding Jangchung and Geummaljae, but Amogae suggests that they stop robbing and start their own business. Yonggae thinks that they’re not cut out for trade, but Amogae mentions Yonggae’s father, who was executed for being a thief, and that touches a nerve.
The entire room breaks out into a brawl, but after bloodying noses and bruising each other, they gather back in a circle. It seems like Amogae won the round because now there’s a large jug of alcohol in the middle of the room, and everyone defers to him.
He describes his plan to produce black linen (highly coveted by their Chinese neighbors), barter it with Chinese merchants for silk on the black market, and sell the silk legitimately to noblemen. He even offers to put up the initial capital for the production. At first, the whole black linen manufacturing line consists of two looms and two women, but soon that expands to four, and then many more.
As time passes, Gil-hyun continues learning his letters and Gil-dong teaches his sister to walk, but their father is no longer there for important family moments because he’s busy with his impending business.
When the night of their first black linen/Chinese silk transaction arrives, the men pile into a fishing boat with their goods hidden on board. They’re stopped by local coast guards, who they appease with a bribe of dried shrimp. Their deal with the Chinese goes smoothly, and they end up with a large net profit.
Unfortunately, a black-sailed pirate ship approaches them with nefarious intentions. Thankfully, Amogae notices them before they’re too close and wraps up their precious silk cargo in waterproof lining before jumping into the water. The others are initially confused, but they take the cue when the bullying pirates barge onboard and start rummaging through their belongings. They find some remaining black linen cloth and take it as tribute.
Although Yonggae wants to argue against the pirates’ intrusion, Soboori stops him, because Amogae has been in the water too long without oxygen. The pirates’ last warning to Soboori and the others is that these waters belong to them, and that half of any profit made on them will be theirs to take. Trying to get them to leave as quickly as possible, Soboori just nods and acquiesces.
When the pirates are no longer in sight, they fish out Amogae, who’s unconscious and blue from lack of breathing. They hurry back to Amogae’s house where his children are playing in the front yard. They’re shocked to see their father on Keutsae’s back and start crying.
After they settle the unconscious man into bed, Ilchung holds a large needle against Amogae’s chest to perform acupuncture therapy, but his hands tremble in fear. Seeing this, Gil-dong places a hand over the anxious monk’s and says that he’ll hold him in place. After a nerve-wracking moment, Amogae spits up the water clogging his lungs and comes back to life.
Later, Soboori readies some boiling water for his revived friend when Gil-dong approaches him. Thinking that his father was corrupted by Soboori’s influence, Gil-dong tells him not to hang out with Amogae anymore. But Soboori laughs and tells Gil-dong to think closely about who really caused his father’s transformation.
Amogae and the others debrief on what happened at their night smuggling encounter, and after some investigation, they find out that the pirates are in league with the coast guards. By purposefully losing large sums of money to the coast guards, the leader of the pirate crew has been able to cash in on tipoffs and evade the huge bounty on the leader’s head that would turn a slave into a commoner, a commoner to a titled man, a titled man to a higher position, and so on.
Amogae decides to use this to his advantage and hatches a plan: after luring the head pirate into a night of gambling with Ilchung, they’ll kidnap him. Amogae kills two birds with one stone by bringing Secretary Eom back into the mix.
A flashback shows that when Amogae promised Secretary Eom that he’d elevate him to a higher position, and had given him a good luck talisman that was supposed to aid him during the national civil servant exam. On his way home from failing said exam, Secretary Eom holds the wooden talisman and curses himself for believing the lies of a honey-tongued thief.
However, that’s when cries to catch the fleeing head pirate arise. After hearing the calls that clearly state that whoever catches the pirate would be rewarded with a great position, Secretary Eom promptly bops the incoming pirate on the head with his wooden talisman.
He sees Amogae and the gang coming toward him from the direction of the knocked down pirate and realizes that Amogae had kept his word and repaid his favor in a different way, but with the same desired result. And just like that, Secretary Eom becomes Magistrate Eom.
He holds the gaudiest celebration that the Ikhwari town has ever seen for his official inaugural parade. Amogae nods to him, and Soboori winks at him from the admiring crowds, so Magistrate Eom flashes them the universal sign for drinks afterwards.
When they have dinner together, Amogae asks if the newly instated magistrate’s accommodations are adequate, and he replies that he’s been bothered by the sound of rats in his building. Amogae says that he’d like to donate some funds to the magisterial office once he profits from his “fishing” trips (aka smuggling operations) to repair the building, but that some “cats” (corrupt officials in league with pirates) are eating most of his catch. Taking the hint, Magistrate Eom promises to track down those “cats.”
The next day, he strikes fear into the hearts of his underlings by saying that he was a former magisterial secretary. That means he can catch the slightest whiff of corruption, and he won’t be lenient with anyone who is found guilty.
Of course, this has trickle-down effects, and the next time Amogae and his crew go out for their bartering mission, the coast guards won’t even take a look at the bribe that they’ve prepared for them.
As profit grows, the black market black linen trade grows as well, and the gang goes out to celebrate at a nearby town. Happy about their success, they become a little rowdy, and on a pee break, Amogae overhears the locals disparage his bunch, calling them a group of low-life gangsters.
He mentions that to the rest, and they become incensed, but then real gangsters — the pirate bullies from before — show up, wanting to pledge allegiance. They promise that they’ll do whatever they’re told, whether it’s beating, crushing, and destroying things or people.
Amogae speaks up and says that they don’t need people to do that, but rather, they need some more brothers to share drinks with who would be willing to protect their own. Liking the sound of being brothers, the pirate spokesman agrees in laughter.
Following this encounter, Amogae holds a primitive yet meaningful ceremony to commemorate the beginning of their blood brotherhood, and he promises that no one will touch him or his own. As he dips a gourd into the blood-mixed rice wine, he proclaims: “If one gains, we all gain. If one fights, we all fight. And if one dies, we all die!”
Watching from over the fence, Gil-hyun looks entranced, while Gil-dong’s expression is more wary. He tells his older brother that he’s worried because his father changed for him and that he might die because of him, but Gil-hyun tells him not to worry.
His concerns don’t seem to have gone away, because when Gil-dong takes a nap later, he’s transported back into the tiger’s forest where he cries sorrowfully that it’s all his fault. The majestic tiger stays silent, but keeps Gil-dong company while he weeps.
Meanwhile, Amogae looks over his little dominion with Soboori at his side, almost awed that he’s still alive to appreciate his family and new friends. He tells Soboori of his ambitions to raise Gil-hyun as a scholar and Gil-dong as a general.
Someone should have told him that these things don’t work out like you plan, because soon, Gil-hyun starts showing interest in knives instead of books. When Amogae asks Gil-hyun about possibly taking the civil servant exam, Gil-hyun replies that he knows there isn’t a bright career for slave-born scholars, and that he’d rather learn to follow in his father’s footsteps. Mollified, Amogae changes his ideas for Gil-hyun’s future.
One day, Gil-dong walks through the street stalls when a pretty display of accessories catches his eye. The vendor tries to shoo him away, but after hearing from his friend that Gil-dong is the son of Amogae, whose influence is now significant, he brings him back and tells him to choose whatever he likes. Gil-dong has so much fun that he runs back to his father and announces that he wants to become a traveling merchant in the future.
Of course, this was not Amogae’s plan for Gil-dong, so the next day, when Gil-dong goes again to watch the street mart, Amogae sits down with him to talk. He tells his son that while peddling is a good career, Gil-dong can’t become a trader because he is special — he’s the Mighty Child.
Gil-dong asks his father if he’s referring the same Mighty Child that’s destined to kill his family and all his loved ones. It’s clear that Amogae’s warnings to Gil-dong when they were still slaves have become ingrained in him. Even though his father tells him he doesn’t have to hide his strength anymore, all the recent emotional trauma has taken its toll, and it’s caused Gil-dong to subconsciously suppress any memories that he has of having inhuman powers. Amogae is surprised at first, but then accepts his son as he is.
Twelve years later, wealthy Ikhwari elder Amogae looks over his village, waiting for his second son to come home. His daughter rushes to present him with a bouquet and goes to find her brother.
An older Gil-hyun (Shim Hee-seob) is in the forge, overseeing the creation of counterfeit silver taels, and cautions his sister not to come in so freely. She goes back out in search of her second brother and calls out to the ocean, telling him that if he doesn’t come back soon, their father will be really worried.
At a nobleman’s house somewhere, the wealthy daughter and her servant gossip about rumors of a magical merchant who can help ladies with all their troubles with romance and fertility. Seeing her lady’s keen interest in his abilities, the servant gives her the name, Hong Gil-dong.
The scene switches to a beautiful panorama view of an older Gil-dong (Yoon Kyun-sang), who sits in a wheat field calmly gazing out at the blue sky.
Finally! I could watch Kim Sang-joong’s masterful caper schemes all day, but I started this drama for Yoon Kyun-sang, and I’m so excited we’ll see him on screen now. After all the heavy background-building and history-setting, I’m ready for a few lighthearted episodes of seeing Yoon Kyun-sang peddling women’s wares and performing “love miracles.”
Too bad my drama spidey senses are tingling that things will go awry soon. This upward trajectory where good keeps winning over evil never lasts very long, especially at the beginning of a sageuk. A foreboding feeling tells me that Gil-dong will have to endure another traumatic event to rediscover his powers, and I just have my fingers crossed that his father won’t die in the process.
I’ve gotten so attached to Amogae and his impressive rags-to-riches journey. For Amogae, it was never about the wealth or the power, but rather what those could help him protect: his family. I think that’s one of the reasons he created the blood brotherhood, so that his children would have a strong familial support network in place should he be taken away again for his murderous past deed. His actions also empowered his people, the helpless and undesirables of society, and validated their inner human worth. Growing up under those ideals, Gil-dong’s inner compass is equipped for him to become a leader, but is he ready for the burdens of responsibility?
When Amogae initially wanted Gil-hyun to become a prestigious government official and Gil-dong to become a general, I had a laugh thinking: Wow, stereotypical Asian parent. After seeing his acceptance of Gil-dong’s desires, my impression of him changed. Partly, I think some part of him still wanted to shield Gil-dong from the world to keep him safe a while longer. But mostly, I think Amogae is truly a great father who only wants his children to be happy.
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