Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 9
The revenge plot begins, with Gil-dong making small but steady steps forward to get back on those who hurt his family. He begins to adopt his father’s role and carry on his legacy by protecting his people and paying his enemies back. He may not be as ruthless as Amogae (yet), but he has the heart and now the strength to actively resist anyone who seeks their destruction.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
The mysterious scholar leads Gil-hyun into a court of students all furiously studying Confucian text. Gil-hyun remembers the time in his youth when he loved to read but was punished for his unfitting intelligence as a slave. As Gil-hyun looks around in awe, the mysterious scholar explains that all these students are studying for the upcoming civil service exam.
He then turns to Gil-hyun and asks who he is (in reference to his family ancestry). Gil-hyun quickly thinks back to the information he gathered at the deceased man’s home in the woods. He repeats the family credentials listed in the man’s will as his own, and then the scholar asks about his parents. Gil-hyun is saved by an interruption by a fellow student, who calls the scholar “Teacher” — we’ll call the scholar TEACHER SONG now. Teacher Song introduces Gil-hyun to the student.
The friendly student walks with Gil-hyun and asks if he also met Teacher Song in front of the stationary stand. It seems Teacher Song frequently picks up new students in this manner, and we learn that he does so because this house is a place for scholar-hopefuls whose fathers have passed away early, like him, or who lack the money, background, and social standing to pursue this path.
The student suggests that Gil-hyun join them, since people like themselves need to stick together to succeed. But Gil-hyun claims that he does not plan on taking the civil service examination and that he merely visited the scholars’ hall because he was curious about what it looked like. Unfazed by the rejection, the student insists that Gil-hyun study with them, saying that he feels like he’s known Gil-hyun like an old friend. The music cue at “old friend” gets my spidey senses tingling…
We revisit the Choongwongoon residence, where Madam Jo thanks Choongwongoon before she leaves to support her son, who’s taking the civil service exam soon. She seems to have some regret about not completely obliterating Amogae’s followers and warns him about Gil-dong. Quoting her own son, she claims with urgency: “He’s strong. He’s a beast.”
Choongwongoon laughs in response. He knows that eliminating all of Amogae’s followers will take time, since Amogae ruled as the Ikhwari Elder for over ten years. With Amogae’s death, he claims that the root of their enemies has been destroyed, so the rest will follow. He assures Madam Jo that Gil-dong died, since no beast could possibly survive the fall from that cliff. He laughs at her overrated fear, but she seems to sense something ominous.
As Madam Jo leaves, Choongwongoon offers her the best brushes he could find as a gift for her son. She thanks her savior, calling him the nation’s pillar. He responds humbly, that he’s merely preserving social order. Behind him, Heotaehak scoffs that he’s spewing out bullshit. Wary of the consequences, Heotaehak’s son stands between Choongwongoon and his father as a buffer, but fortunately, it doesn’t seem like Choongwongoon heard the comment.
As Heotaehak walks around with Amogae’s prayer beads, we jump back to the new Bandit HQ, where Gil-dong explains the plan. He says that the first thing that Heotaehak took — upon Amogae’s defeat — were the prayer beads, which symbolize social power. He reminds his team about Amogae’s vow during the blood brothers ceremony to protect his family, friends, and even their dog. Gil-dong says they must live up to their reputation as gangsters and seek revenge.
That night, Yonggae gets up and quietly leaves the house while the rest of the gang sleeps. As he walks away, he’s followed by Segul. They’ve decided that they can’t follow Gil-dong’s crazy plan. Segul seems ready to head off, but a remorseful Yonggae lingers to give Amogae a formal farewell bow from outside.
Before they can leave for good, Gil-dong comes outside to ask if they’re really leaving. Turns out, the rest of the gang wasn’t asleep, and they listen in. Yonggae apologizes to a tearful Gil-dong and says that he’s scared of Choongwongoon. They leave, and Gil-dong cries outside while Amogae listens from his room somberly.
The next morning, the gang’s quiet breakfast table is interrupted by Magistrate Eom, who starts blabbing away at how no one saw him come to the house. He asks about Yonggae and Segul, which only intensifies the tension in the room. Keutsae slams his bowl on the table and mutters about the traitors.
Ga-ryung feeds Amogae in his room, and he ushers her to eat. She claims to have eaten already and continues to feed him as she talks about Gil-dong’s ridiculous requests for her to stop cooking and cleaning. She asks incredulously as to what else a woman should be doing other than cooking and cleaning (ah, internalized gender roles, there you are). Amogae smiles at her, and she freezes in surprise at the first smile she’s seen from him. She lets slip her comment that Gil-dong must be handsome like his father before she can hold her tongue, and that makes Amogae smile a little wider.
In the next room, Magistrate Eom shakes his head at the two runaways, but demands to know how Gil-dong plans on capturing Heotaehak. Everyone’s in a bad mood, and Il-chung pointedly asks why Magistrate Eom continues to visit the house. Didn’t he cause this whole tragedy? Isn’t he the reason why Gil-hyun and Eorini are lost? Taking the hint, Magistrate Eom stands up to leave and never come back. Before he exits the room, he says that he was the happiest when he lived with all of them, though he admits that he knows that he’s at fault.
Magistrate Eom struggles to take charge in his own office, since his secretary knows that he’s nothing without Amogae to back his power. As he continues to nag his secretary, he spots his undergarment robe hanging outside, splattered with blood. He tells his secretary that no one has survived Amogae’s wrath after such a sign. The secretary insists that Amogae is dead, but Magistrate Eom claims that Amogae’s gang is still alive. He continues to overact and fan the fire for the secretary to take action.
And the secretary does. He takes the bloody robe to Heotaehak and tells him of the curse. Heotaehak doesn’t believe it, and just then, they’re interrupted by an urgent message about Magistrate Eom.
They follow a bloody trail into his office, where they find a small box on the desk. Heotaehak’s son opens it to find a severed tongue supposedly belonging to Magistrate Eom. Heotaehak opens a letter that explains that they cut the magistrate’s tongue for his sins against Amogae.
We return to Bandit HQ, where we see Magistrate Eom sitting among the gang, now forced into hiding. He didn’t leave them, after all. In a quick flashback, we see Gil-dong following an upset Magistrate Eom outside. He asked if Heotaehak trusts that Magistrate Eom betrayed Amogae, since that fact alone would be enough.
With the ball rolling, the rest of the gang wonders what they’re going to do. Soboori worries that they only have three pairs of fists against their enemies, and Gil-dong claims that he’s able to fight as the fourth addition. They’re not convinced, and Keutsae reveals that he actually lost to Gil-dong on purpose in their previous arm-wrestling match. Gil-dong challenges Keutsae to another match and asks to be included as a fighter if he wins.
Keutsae and Gil-dong have an arm-wrestling rematch, and Gil-dong looks more at ease than ever. Amogae and Ga-ryung come outside as the match begins, and they watch Keutsae struggle more and more as Gil-dong holds his position. Eventually, Gil-dong slams his arm down and defeats the all-powerful Keutsae. Everyone looks alarmed, and Amogae looks at his son curiously.
Inside his room, Amogae stares forward intensely, enough to stop Ga-ryung from feeding him chestnuts. She eats them herself and talks to him (but mostly to herself) about Gil-dong’s strength. He continues to look forward intensely while Ga-ryung continues to cover her lips with black ash from the chestnuts.
Finally accepted as a useful body in this fight, Gil-dong says that they’ll slowly torture Heotaehak. They adopt a form of guerilla warfare, just to be a little extra petty and sneaky. They leave snakes in Heotaehak’s bed, dig a fatally deep hole along Heotaehak’s path, poison his food, and throw a knife at his house as a morning greeting. They’re all little things, but they definitely torture Heotaehak to the brink of insanity.
Choongwongoon addresses the rumors about the threats from Amogae’s followers, but Heotaehak denies them. Choonwongon calls Heotaehak boring, stupid, and pathetic, and reminds him that he’ll be invited by the king to move to Hanyang soon. If these rebels disrupt their move, Heotaehak will be severely punished.
He dismisses Heoetaehak, but asks his son to stay in the room. Choongwongoon asks the son for his name (finally!), and we learn that it’s MORI. He’s not Heotaehak’s real son, but he was an adopted nomad. He initially asked to become a slave so that he could eat, but Heotaehak offered to teach him his art. After his introduction, Mori follows Heotaehak outside and assures him that they’ll find the rebels, but Heotaehak isn’t too convinced.
Ilchung returns from his village trip and reports back on the heightened tension between Heotaehak and Choongwongoon. Gil-dong plans to steal the prayer beads next to elevate the threat, since Heotaehak sleeps with the beads at his bedside. Ilchung says that there’s a way to do this via the women Heotaehak recruits to please Choongwongoon. They would need a trustworthy person on their side…
From the corner of the room, Ga-ryung volunteers. She offers to help, and the rest of the gang agrees that she would be the most trustworthy person, since she’s already on their side. Keutsae worries about the consequences if the plan goes awry, and at that, Gil-dong refuses to let Ga-ryung help. He tells her to go home, but she says that she has no home to return to.
Outside, Ga-ryung confidently says that she can do well. Gil-dong coldly says that he won’t care if things go awry and she dies. Ouch, that hurts, but Ga-ryung doesn’t make it too obvious. He tells her that she must steal the prayer beads and one of Heotaehak’s undergarment robes without being caught. She’ll have someone to help her, but she must pretend that she doesn’t know the helper.
The friendly student at the scholars’ house comes out with a smile. He sees a familiar face waiting for him and calls out to his mother. She turns around, and omo — it’s Madam Jo. She calls her son’s name, SOO-HAK, with gifts in hand.
Gil-hyun wanders around the halls, watching students study and practice their writing. He sits down at one of the tables with a brush in hand and overhears a conversation about getting selected into the court. The students claim that the current king specifically wants a Buddhist ceremony (one that requires a food offering for a lonely spirit). The students don’t seem to understand the king’s reasons.
Neither do the court officials, as they express disapproval at the king’s insistence on the ritual, since it conflicts with the former king’s laws and progress based on Confucian ideals (which is considered the modern form of government in Joseon). They state that a dutiful son will not change his father’s laws for three years after his death. Going against these rules would make King Yeonsangun disloyal.
Yeonsangun finds the criticisms hurtful and tells his court that he is settling into his role. He simply wants to send off his mother with the Buddhist ceremony, but the officials have consistently refused to allow this. They collectively express their deep disapproval of the ritual, but one official defends the king’s actions, sympathizing with his sorrow for his mother’s death years ago.
But another official argues that this sympathizing official is simply flattering the king, and they go on to shame the sycophantic official. As the officials continue to argue, Yeonsangun observes these arguments and thinks back to his father’s last words about the bickering officials who claim their side is more virtuous than their weaker opponents. His father told his son to remember the Confucian texts and follow their path, as it is the only safe way.
In the palace, the gisaeng troupe chatters about the rumors surrounding the mysterious king, and Nok-soo listens in. Wolhaemae stops the gossiping by playing her instrument and urging others to join in the fun. They play their music until one of their own rushes in warning about someone from the palace entering. It’s Eunuch Kim and another advisor, and they choose three women to perform at the palace. Nok-soo is not included in the selection, and she looks up at Eunuch Kim, wondering if he’s the reason.
Nok-soo follows Eunuch Kim outside and tells him that she sensed that he wasn’t a simple mat merchant. He responds that he expected much more of her as well, but he seems to have reservations about her relationship with Gil-dong. Nok-soo claims that it’s all in the past and that all gisaengs have one person they hold dear. She claims that there are even some gisaengs with children (though she doesn’t reveal that she does), so she tries to persuade Eunuch Kim that her past admiration of Gil-dong shouldn’t impede her.
Eunuch Kim agrees, but he tells her that she shouldn’t consider directly serving (marrying) the king. Nok-soo isn’t discouraged by his warning and slyly says she has no control over the king’s decision. Her ambitions and will all depend on the king, she says with a smile.
Back at Choongwongoon’s house, Mori scans through the lines of slave-hopefuls — where Ga-ryung is planted — and selects a few to join the house. He initially picks Ga-ryung, but he spots a scar on her neck and turns her away. She protests that he promised to feed her, but she’s dragged away from the house. She escapes by biting the man’s arm — her specialty — and runs away.
She’s dragged away by another man, who quickly ushers her under the house. He covers her with hay bundles and quickly orders her to stay there until dark. Then, she will see a servant girl delivering water to Heotaehak. The man diverts attention away from Ga-ryung’s hiding spot, effectively leaving her on her own.
Gil-dong walks through the village market with a worried look towards the house, and we transition into nighttime. Ga-ryung sneaks out of her hiding spot and scurries over to watch the guards in front of Heotaehak’s room. She hides behind a bush as Mori walks past, and she intercepts the platter from the servant girl with her effective lies.
She quietly enters Heotaehak’s room, tiptoeing to keep her presence unknown. She sits down by the sleeping Heotaehak and waves her hand in front of his face. He doesn’t respond, so she goes forward with the plan. She remembers the gang saying that Heotaehak keeps his prayer beads above his head, so she opens the box placed there. She doesn’t find anything, but Heotaehak shuffles in his sleep and reveals the prayer beads wrapped around his right wrist.
Ga-ryung quietly hops over to the other side of the sleeping Heotaehak and carefully reaches for the beads. She slowly shifts the beads off his hand, when suddenly he sits up, yelling, “Choongwongoon!” Oh my god, my heart. He slumps back onto the floor and back into sleep, and Ga-ryung looks relieved as she proudly holds the prayer beads in her hands.
Gil-dong waits just outside the house, and he spots Ga-ryung peeping her head over the manor’s wall. He runs toward her and motions her to hop over. She looks around and carefully climbs onto the wall, and as she carefully inches her way down, she slips and falls down toward Gil-dong. He rushes to catch her fall, and they’re both shocked by the fall and their following proximity. Still holding onto him tightly, she looks up and smiles. “You’re my orabeoni now,” she says, and he smiles back.
Heotaehak wakes up from his deep slumber and notices his empty right hand. He jerks up with widened eyes and immediately goes through his clothing. He can’t find his undergarment robe and yells for Mori, who rushes in. They go outside and find his white robe, covered in blood and hanging from a tree. Heotaehak is completely shaken.
Ilchung reports to Gil-dong that Heotaehak has fired his whole team out of distrust. When he reassembles his team, they’ll make sure to include a few of their people to destroy Heotaehak from within. Amogae limps out of his room with the help of Soboori, and he sees Gil-dong with the prayer beads in his hands. He looks at his son with deep longing eyes as we get a glimpse of the past, from Amogae’s murder to Gil-dong’s resolve to get revenge. We hear Gil-dong’s plea as we watch this montage:
Gil-dong: “There are people in the world that refuse to watch people like us live like humans. It is not because these people are bad people — it’s because we are not human in their eyes. Is that their fault? It’s our fault. When they tell us that we’re not human and we acquiesce to say ‘Yes, we’re not human,’ they treat us like we’re not human. Instead of humans, shall we live as monsters?”
Gil-dong covers his sleeping father with the blanket and leaves to execute his revenge. When he leaves the room, Amogae opens his eyes, still deep in thought and unable to sleep in the wake of the revenge talk.
The four Amogae Avengers prepare to leave the house under the watch of Magistrate Eom and Ga-ryung, who looks worriedly at Gil-dong. Magistrate Eom jokingly worries about old Soboori, who’s long past his prime, and it’s only a half-joke because they are undeniably older now. As they leave, Ga-ryung tells Gil-dong that they better be home by the next morning. She’ll have seven bowls of rice prepared.
That night, Heotaehak struggles to fall asleep, tossing and jerking upright with anxiety. He urgently yells for Mori and sighs in relief when his trusted follower arrives promptly. Then suddenly, they hear someone enter through the gates. It’s an unknown injured man covered in blood. Mori tells his minions to guard the house and runs outside to site of the commotion. Then the “injured” man looks up and smiles. It’s Gil-dong in disguise.
Outside, Soboori, Ilchung, and Keutsae fight off their enemies, still pretty swift for their age. At the sight of Mori and more troops, they run away. Mori senses something off and orders half of his troops back to the house.
Our three avengers face their opponents and wonder why there are so many to fight off. Soboori prepares himself to return to his prime fighting days, as do Ilchung and Keutsae. But before they can begin, one of their opponents gets beaten and thrown toward them. Behind the crowd, Eop-san announces his arrival and beats his way toward his hyungs. Eop-san says he’ll save his story for later, and the four of them jump right into the fight, now with some necessary young blood on their side.
When Mori returns to the home, he finds all of his guards beaten and thrown onto the roof. He sees the door to Heotaehak’s room broken open, and sees a figure flying over the roof. It’s Gil-dong kidnapping Heotaehak, and Mori runs after them.
The next morning, Heotaehak wakes up tied to a wooden pillar. Four shadowed figures mock him and wonder how they should bury him, which only makes him squirm even more. A masked Gil-dong enters and pulls down his mask, which the music makes into a more epic and exciting scene. He greets their captive, saying that it’s been a while since they’ve last met.
At the palace, Eunuch Kim apologizes to Yeonsangun about their troupe, which seems to lack the talent to please the king. Yeonsangun doesn’t seem too bothered, as he’s still conflicted by his father’s advice on how to rule. He seems tired of the persistent Buddhist ceremony disapproval from the officials and knows that the officials are trying to tame him to their liking.
Eunuch Kim reminds him that his father rose to the throne at the early age of thirteen and tells him not to be discouraged. Yeonsangun nods and says that his father became a flag before asking if a person can live as a flag.
We flash back to the king’s deathbed, where the king told his son that Joseon is a Confucian state and must remain that way. He advised his son to point out the wrongs if someone suggests otherwise so that he can become the highest and most virtuous flag (we see that he was referencing the symbolism of a flag).
Wolhamae goes outside to find Nok-soo, who’s staring blankly at nothing. She says that she thought Nok-soo would flourish inside the temple, but she had no idea that the mat merchant would be the obstacle. She curses the merchant, who watched Nok-soo’s whole relationship with Gil-dong, and then curses Gil-dong for stumbling into their gibang, of all places.
Gil-dong approaches captive Heotaehak and puts a knife at his throat. He slices the ropes tying Heotaehak’s hands and lets him free, because he claims he can capture him anytime he wants. Gil-dong dares him to test them and advises him to pray for good fortune — to not get bitten by a snake, fall into a hole, or eat poisoned food. This proves to Heotaehak that those past incidents were not accidents, and he shrinks smaller in fear.
Gil-dong gives him the option to continue living in fear, or to help them capture Choongwongoon. Heotaehak initially refuses, but Gil-dong knows that he’s treated like a dog in that house. He berates Heotaehak for killing his father, only to become a dog for it. Gil-dong offers him a spot on the Amogae brotherhood. Amogae’s people are not treated like dogs and always repay what they’ve suffered, he adds. If Heotaehak joins them, then Amogae’s people will avenge the people who’ve made him suffer. So is he in?
Mori searches for Heotaehak through the night, and he sees someone walking towards them in the distance. It’s Heotaehak, but he doesn’t acknowledge Mori and continues to walk forward.
It’s the day of Choongwongoon’s big move, and Gil-dong is disguised as a servant. He nods at Heotaehak, who seems to have accepted the offer into the brotherhood. Choongwongoon exits the gates and walks down to his horse, where Gil-dong happily gets on his knees for the royal family member to use him as a mounting block. Choongwongoon looks pleased and tells Heotaehak that he’s trained the servants well.
While Gil-dong kneels, his innocent smile slowly drops and forms into a sly smile, one ready for revenge.
I’m loving this show more and more with every episode. Each episode feels like a step in the right direction with tone, character development, plot, and crescendoing epicness. I can sense the revolution coming, and although that revolution is still at a low rumble, it’s enough to get me excited for what’s to come. We get sprinkles in short bursts of the blooming rebel in Gil-dong, and I’m hyped. Overall, this show does a great job in distributing moments of comedy, anxiety, and chills — it keeps me entertained and engaged throughout.
I appreciate the transition we’re getting from Amogae to Gil-dong, as we see how the son mirrors the father. I’m glad that the show decided to keep Amogae around, even though he seemingly serves no purpose at this time. At this point, he serves more as a symbol (a flag, if you will) of the resistance that seeks to prove that there’s a human existence in people who are expected to serve as dogs. It’s a universal desire, to be treated like a human, and I find that call to action very compelling. It’s dark and murky to become monsters in order to achieve that human acknowledgement, but this direction makes the journey much more interesting. Justice is great, but vigilante justice is sweet.
The short clips of the king interwoven with Gil-dong’s revenge plot is a nice juxtaposition. The father-son dynamic is drastically different in this royal family, and I find the conflict that Yeonsangun faces a little more complex, in that it’s not a universally understood issue. The history is probably the biggest obstacle to understanding the tension between the officials and the king, and I can’t say that I’m well versed with this history. During early Joseon, there was a conflict with the shift of the Buddhist-centered state to a government based on Confucian ideals. There seems to be a fundamental clash of the two schools of thought, and while they may overlap in some ways, the divide in the court at the time seems to be more political than philosophical. But all the history aside, I do see some similarities in Yeonsangun’s struggle as the symbol of power. I do think that Gil-dong will face that struggle later down the road, and I’ll be interested to see how that manifests.
Until then, I’m going to take the crumbs as they come, especially with this Gil-dong/Ga-ryung development. I almost had a heart attack when she snuck into Heotaehak’s room to steal those prayer beads (thank god he’s a heavy sleeper). I knew she had to get out of there alive, since it’s too soon for her to be sacrificed at the stake (it’ll always be too soon), but it still made me extremely nervous seeing her navigate that hell hole of a place. But I forgot all of it when I saw how adorable Ga-ryung was in finally getting approval from Gil-dong to be her orabeoni. Girl’s gotta do what she gotta to get her orabeoni.
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 8
- 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