Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 16
I can feel it, we’re on the cusp of something big—the events of this episode had me experiencing chilling déjà vu moments that reminded me of the beginning of Amogae’s downfall, except on a much larger scale. We’re no longer in the small backwater town of Ikhwari now that our heroes are running the black market trade in the capital city of Hanyang. And some major social change is about to go down that will change how all the people in Joseon feel about their government and their king, which will have a fundamental impact on their lives.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Four years later, Eorini walks in a row of palace maids, but which one is she? There are two girls that the camera focuses on, both looking intelligent and at the right age to be Gil-dong’s baby sister.
Gil-dong oversees his beautiful property as Ilchung asks if he’s ready for their reunion day with all the other Hong brothers. Soboori, Yonggae, Keutsae, Eop-san, and Segul all arrive in various states of luxurious dress, looking happy to see each other. After they enter the gate, they greet Gil-dong with half-cheeky, half-respectful bows as “The Great Elder.” When Ga-ryung comes out from a side door, they say hello to her with fondness.
Yeonsangun feeds his golden eagle scraps of meat as he listens to a man’s thanks—it’s Scholar Song, who has come to bow to the king for interceding on behalf of Choongwongoon. It seems that Yeonsangun has released Choongwongoon from his state of house arrest and shunned exile. The former royal is outside, not a part of this conversation but in front of the palace gates, bowing four times for forgiveness with a completely changed aura in his eyes.
Inside, Yeonsangun warns Scholar Song that although his father may have relied upon the scholar, he is not the same, and he subtly hints that it may take some effort to come into his inner circle. Mori stands by Choongwongoon’s side as he completes his bows.
Later, when Scholar Song and Choongwongoon talk, the former royal profusely thanks the scholar for being his salvation. Then they talk about his future plans now that he has been released. Scholar Song tells Choongwongoon that it is the fervor of young men, especially young noblemen, that is the most powerful thing in Joseon.
He knows that Choongwongoon still burns with anger toward the peasants who framed him and got him into this state. So, Scholar Song goes on to say that even without planning his revenge, Choongwongoon can achieve it just by wielding that power.
Starting the next day, Choongwongoon and Scholar Song begin their campaign to influence the country’s youth. Scholar Song preaches in the streets to commoners and noblemen alike about how there is a natural hierarchy that must be followed: between child and parent, and between peasants and noblemen. If this hierarchy is breached, then chaos will reign, because order has been disrupted. Mistress Jo looks engrossed in his teachings as he continues to spout his passionate ravings about how the order of the world will collapse if they do not adhere to a strict hierarchy.
Back at Bandit HQ, after they finish a meal together, everyone gives Ga-ryung storybooks as gifts. As a return present, she says she’ll tell them one of her stories, but all the Amogae Avengers try to stop her, wincing as she goes to retrieve her storybook despite their protests. And once she begins reading, everyone at the feast table falls fast asleep except for Gil-dong. She’s reading a typical love story, and he smiles at her, completely enthralled, while Soboori watches their cute dynamic from the corner of his eye and smiles.
Ilchung brings the case of Kang Tae-sung to Gil-dong’s attention, since the man is a scholar from a middling noble family. He loves his half-brother who was born to another mother, a concubine/gisaeng. The brother was bullied in school because of his lesser social stature and became paralyzed because of the other people’s cruel violence against him.
So Kang Tae-sung piggybacks his brother every day to school, and he requests that Gil-dong get revenge on behalf of his brother at their meeting. After paying proper respect to “The Great Elder,” Kang Tae-sung is granted his wish when Gil-dong orders Keutsae to take care of it.
Later, when Kang Tae-sung and his brother are about to be heckled by bully scholars again, Keutsae, who has been watching, follows the bullies and beats them up.
Kang Tae-sung presents a box full of silver to Gil-dong as thanks, but Gil-dong refuses. With an expression of intense anger, Gil-dong says that he hates people like Kang Tae-sung more than the people that beat his brother up because he isn’t man enough to do anything but complain and cry himself.
Soboori approaches Gil-dong about a marriage offer that has come in for Ga-ryung. Although he doesn’t seem too pleased, he agrees to see the suitor, and when he views the man from afar, Ilchung comments that the man is very handsome, with a straight nose, clear skin, and tall stature. To top it all off, he is rumored to be a hard worker. Gil-dong nitpicks every detail, saying that the nose is too big, he has clearer skin, and to be called tall, the suitor must be at least his height. With a knowing click of the tongue, Ilchung remarks that at this rate, Ga-ryung will never get married.
But Gil-dong eventually does go to Ga-ryung to ask whether she wants to meet with the man who has asked for her hand. Trying to discern his inner feelings about her, Ga-ryung tells Gil-dong that she’ll do whatever he says—if he wants her to meet him she will, and if he doesn’t want her to, she won’t.
For a moment, she has a crestfallen expression when he says that she should meet with the suitor, but she soon recovers and agrees. Gil-dong accepts her decision, and the next day, Ga-ryung is set up with this unknown man.
She waits at a table full of food for the man who has asked for her hand, but he doesn’t come. Impatiently, Gil-dong watches in the background, but Soboori reports to Gil-dong that the man has taken back his offer because there’s a rumor going around in the streets that Ga-ryung is already betrothed.
A flashback shows that this was all a part of Ga-ryung’s plans to get Gil-dong jealous. She originally asked Soboori to bring this man into the equation, and she was also the one who spread the rumors. Soboori promised to do as she said as long as she wouldn’t read him any of her stories anymore, ha.
When Ilchung finds out that Ga-ryung was the source of the rumors herself, he tells Gil-dong, who is completely taken aback. Gil-dong confronts Ga-ryung, and she says that it’s true that she does have someone she likes. She’s known him for a long time, but he doesn’t return her affections.
Of course, Gil-dong is surprised, because he’s still probably under the impression that she harbored a crush on him. So when she tells him that she wants to introduce her soon-to-be lover to Gil-dong, he doesn’t look to pleased by the prospect.
Grumbling, Gil-dong stands with Ga-ryung in the courtyard gazebo awaiting this mysterious man, who is the object of her affections. With a wide smile, Ga-ryung starts describing her love, a merchant who uses his money for good, who is also handsome beyond belief, with soulful eyes that make her flutter.
Not able to take any more, Gil-dong cuts her off by saying that the suitor is late. Then she tells him that the man is already here, and Gil-dong looks around. She confesses directly to him that the man she loves is none other than Gil-dong. Although his memory flashes back to how she shook up his feelings back when she waited for him while all the others (including Nok-soo) left, he tells her that she isn’t a woman to him and leaves her there with a crestfallen expression.
Shedding tears, Ga-ryung packs all of her things as she recalls all of the times Gil-dong treated her like his sister, Eorini. Ilchung tries to stop her from leaving, but Gil-dong just tells him to let her go. She doesn’t get too far before she has to make a stop to cry her eyes out.
Gil-dong finds her sitting alone in a courtyard and asks her again if she likes him. He tells her that he is a thug, and that she should live better than a thug’s woman. Ga-ryung replies that she could love him better than Nok-soo, but that he probably doesn’t want her because she’s an ordinary girl.
Hopelessly, she turns around to leave, and Gil-dong grabs her in a passionate kiss. Afterwards, he tells her that he’s trapped in a dilemma because he doesn’t want to hurt her, so he doesn’t know what to do.
Looking up at him with a growing happiness as she realizes that he returns her feelings, Ga-ryung promises to stay by Gil-dong’s side. They proceed to engage in one of the hottest make out sessions in sageuk drama history.
Meanwhile, Nok-soo is painting her flowers while Yeonsangun sits behind her, watching her beautiful form. She tells him that some young palace servants ignore the musical troupe members because they are from the gisaeng class. Yeonsangun promises that he will assign her some servants right away, and she thanks him with bright and flirtatious eyes.
He asks if that will earn him her heart, and she tells him truthfully that she won’t give him her heart, because that’s the only way to keep him intrigued. He laughs at her audacity, but it’s a cold truth that lends a sharpness to Nok-soo’s bold seduction.
As she’s inspecting her new servants, one of the palace maids (who’s maybe Eorini?) steps forward and volunteers her services to Nok-soo willingly while the others stay back because they were born to a higher class than gisaengs.
The girl shows her mercenary side by telling her peers that she wants to serve Nok-soo well because Nok-soo serves the king. And if she becomes valuable to Nok-soo, she’ll probably also gain some of the favors that Nok-soo is given by the king. The other girl (who may also be Eorini) states that she is afraid of palace politics.
Gil-hyun is out in disguise and approaches some other people who are talking about the disappearance of a man and his family. Wondering what would cause such an interesting case, he asks whether it could have been the district magistrate who did it, and they emphatically reply no, because their magistrate is a kind man.
Having heard this, Gil-hyun decides to visit this magistrate to get to the bottom of this matter, but he’s stopped at the door by government guards. Once he shows his ID proving that he’s an undercover high-ranking investigator, he’s ushered in immediately.
Gil-hyun pursues the case further by following up with the magistrate, who tells him that the disappeared man, Chun-bong, had earlier made an appeal to the justice system regarding the death of his brother, Chun-sam. He had died while engaging in illegal forced labor for a minister who had distant ties to the royal family.
After getting into an altercation with the nobleman regarding the court dispute, Chun-bong disappeared, and after investigating, the magistrate had deduced that Chun-bong had died by the minister’s hand. The strange part about it was the fact that Chun-bong’s entire family also somehow disappeared without a word.
Gil-dong and Ga-ryung walk several rounds of the courtyard after their midnight kissing session. After the first couple back-and-forth circles, Gil-dong looks impatient to go back to their respective rooms and sleep, while Ga-ryung doesn’t want the night to end.
She tells him that there’s something she’s always wanted to do once she had a significant other: sleep together while only holding hands. She looks up at Gil-dong and asks if he wants to sleep with her. His eyes nearly bulge out of his head, and he begins hiccuping. (Keke, what naughty thoughts are going on in that head, Gil-dong?).
When they settle in for the night, Ga-ryung lies with her head on his arm and proceeds to go to sleep after a few moments of flirting. But poor Gil-dong looks extremely uncomfortable because her head is cutting off his circulation.
At first, he tries to adjust his position, but when he sees her face next to his, he stops to just stare at his beloved. Smiling, he wonders aloud, “How can you sleep at a time like this?”
On their first day together, Ga-ryung stares unashamedly at Gil-dong as he goes about his business. Then, out of the blue, she suddenly says that they probably have to get married now, because they’ve seen all of each other.
Of course, Gil-dong’s mind goes straight to the gutter, and he chokes a little before asking what she means. Ga-ryung innocently replies that because they’ve already held hands and kissed, they have to get married now—there’s no choice. Realizing that that’s what she meant, he smiles in agreement to her impromptu and inadvertent proposal.
Back on the streets, Choongwongoon has amassed a large following through his pious chantings. Every day, he has sat outside the justice department saying that chaos happens when the natural order is not followed and that a fight between a nobleman and a peasant should not be so lightly dismissed.
The case between Keutsae and the scholars who were bullying Kang Tae-sung’s brother is reopened as a result, so Gil-dong and company must deliberate on what to do. Magistrate Eom tries to resolve it by himself, but a senior officer tells him that it’s out of his hands and is all up to the new deputy governor, who happens to be Jo Jeong-hak.
When Magistrate Eom goes to Jeong-hak to persuade him to let the case go because it’s already been closed, the new deputy governor remembers what his mentor told him in a flashback. Comparing Jeong-hak to Park Ha-sung, Scholar Song had told him that he should try to gain more favor with the king just like his good friend Park Ha-sung, who rose in the ranks quickly.
He tells Jeong-hak that the best way to earn that favor is to do what Yeonsangun cannot do as a king in the palace: protect the natural hierarchy on the streets. Remembering this, Jeong-hak does not take Keutsae’s case lightly, and so the cheerful giant is imprisoned and taken in for questioning.
Gil-dong and Ilchung visit Keutsae in his cell, but the man is eating chicken happily with an optimistic outlook, since he has faith in Gil-dong. But he does show a glimmer of worry when he tells Gil-dong that for the first time, he wants to see his mother, who he’s never really thought or spoken of before.
This prompts Gil-dong to quickly arrange a meeting with Jo Jeong-hak. He doesn’t even look at Ga-ryung, who greets him worriedly when he comes back home. Later, at the meeting, Jeong-hak catches on that this is a bribe attempt, and he leaves the meeting place abruptly after reprimanding Magistrate Eom for his insolence.
Undeterred, Gil-dong just finds the next person up the power ladder and threatens the official by saying that he’ll release all the records of his alcohol purchases during the prohibition period if he won’t help. So when Jo Jeong-hak has just given the order to punish Keutsae for tussling with someone of the noble class, his superior officer (who Gil-dong threatened) comes to stop him immediately. He reprimands Jeong-hak for not focusing on more important cases in the city just because a group of protestors complained about social order.
Outside, Choongwongoon congratulates his flock for their accomplishments, since their passion for social order has led to Keutsae’s arrest. But just then, Magistrate Eom laughs (knowing that Keutsae has just been released) from behind him. Choongwongoon tears up a little with rage.
As he is being released, the Hong brothers greet Keutsae with a warm welcome, and it’s an atmosphere of success. Gil-dong watches with a smile that seems to show that he still feels uneasy about the situation, which is when Choongwongoon suddenly calls him “Footstool” from behind, with Mori at his side.
Yess! It was cheesy and perhaps a bit unoriginal, but I loved the lead-up to Gil-dong and Ga-ryung’s first kiss. It was exactly like a condensed version of a K-drama rom-com all done in half a show. It had the love triangle, requisite cute jealousy moments, and the noble idiot arc with a bonus innocent bed scene toward the end. I can see already that this relationship isn’t going to be the smoothest one, especially because Gil-dong seems to put Ga-ryung almost last on his list of priorities, but I definitely enjoyed it while it was sweet and light.
On the other hand, Yeonsangun’s fascination with Nok-soo seems to have increased exponentially since the last couple episodes. Perhaps she’s appealing to him because he’s surrounded by yes-men, and she’s probably the only one who will speak the truth with him. But a lot of it probably has to do with the chase: He just wants her because she’s unobtainable. Now that he’s gained almost total power through his reign of fear and surveillance, he’s obsessed with conquering and taking the one thing he can’t seem to gain—her heart.
I know we’re past the background setting stage, but I do wish we could go more in-depth into each of the character’s stories a bit more. I want to learn more about Nok-soo’s opinions on the social system; obviously, her rise to power is inextricably linked with Yeonsangun, but she does have a different perspective because she was born a commoner. Perhaps because she’s insulated within the palace and hasn’t seen how his policies affect the common citizen more than the privileged nobles, she doesn’t realize what she’s been unwittingly promoting by helping Yeonsangun. Or it could be that she does know through her gossip-gathering outings, but she doesn’t care as long as her power is insured.
More disturbing than Yeonsangun’s own development is Scholar Song and Choongwongoon’s alliance. The changes that have come over the king were almost to be expected, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. However, Scholar Song’s strange notions on a pre-ordained natural hierarchy are fueling and giving credence to the king’s absolute power. He thrives on a cult-like energy amongst his listeners, who follow like mindless sheep, bleating that chant. As someone born into the royal class, Choongwongoon was inculcated with that notion, but how did Scholar Song come to this amount of dedication toward that belief? It just doesn’t make sense, and I have an inkling that it may be tied with the death of the dethroned queen (Yeonsangun’s mother), but for the time being, we don’t know.
I’m glad that Gil-hyun got out of the palace, even though it looks like he’s still serving the king loyally, because now that he’s more often on incognito journeys, it looks like Scholar Song’s influence has been moderated somewhat due to his distance from all that crazy.
However, I can’t believe that he still hasn’t run into Eorini yet. The palace can’t be that big, and there can’t be that many maids, can there? After four years, you would think that a brother and sister would have crossed paths at least once and recognized each other. In my experience of dramaworld, I’m pretty sure Eorini is the nice girl, played by actress Jung Da-bin, but Rebel isn’t shaping up to be the typical sageuk, so who knows. It could be that ambitious social climber, and perhaps in the future, whenever she actually ends up meeting with her brothers, we’ll get to see how her shaken life path changed her perceptions of power, strength, and survival.
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 15
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 14
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 13
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 12
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 11
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 10
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 9
- 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