Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 18
Now this is more like it! Bashing in bad guys, getting justice for the poor—this was what I imagined when I signed on for a Hong Gil-dong drama in the first place. I’m glad the band of Hong brothers have found their true calling, and that this episode also served to help us connect the seemingly disparate storyline threads into a bigger idea with regards to the overarching plot.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Scholar Song holds a small late night meeting with Choongwongoon, Jeong-hak, Mistress Jo, and his spy. Mori, seated at a respectful distance in the back, reports that Gil-dong is looking for his siblings. Jeong-hak and Choongwongoon want to use that information about Gil-dong’s weakness to somehow take him down.
However, Scholar Jo insists that they are pillars of society and must not engage in morally lower acts. He cautions them to wait until the king’s anger passes. Jeong-hak does not agree with Scholar Song because he thinks that Gil-dong is dangerous. It doesn’t help that he’s still fully intent on revenge.
So as he and his mother come out of the meeting, he expresses his opinion to her and implies that he’ll use Choongwongoon as bait. When Mistress Jo tries to protest against this method (perhaps she has a soft spot for the pitiful royal), Jeong-hak spouts inegalitarian Confucian principles about how social hierarchy dictates that women should follow men—and although she is his mother, he is now a grown man, so she should listen to him.
After the meeting when he’s just alone with his spy, Scholar Song throws a spastic tantrum—teeth grinding, paper crushing, and all. He reveals his level of paranoia through his ravings.
With a crazed twisted expression on his face, he rants to his spy that there must be a political mastermind controlling Gil-dong’s band intent on coming between him and the king. In his delusions, he really believes that he would be Yeonsangun’s right-hand man if it weren’t for this imaginary nonentity whose sole goal is to wreck his relationship with the king.
Mori trains in the forest, but between movements, he can’t help but think of Ga-ryung’s spunky attitude toward him. (Aww, emo eyeliner assassin has a crush on the cheerful ordinary girl.) He tries to shake off these intermittent thoughts that keep getting in the way of his concentration and punches a tree forcefully.
But suddenly, the earth turns dark as the tree is split into two, and he remembers the reason his father tried to kill him. During his childhood, he had also displayed the same Mighty Child strength as Gil-dong did, so his father, like Amogae (who did initially try to maim Gil-dong) had feared for the future of his family and attempted to kill him.
Back at the government offices, Jo Jeong-hak, who has now been demoted, asks Deputy Governor (previously Magistrate) Eom to connect him with Gil-dong again. He apologizes, saying that he had made a big mistake the last time by storming out of their meeting.
When they meet at Hwalbin gibang, Gil-dong puts on his friendly merchant face again because Jeong-hak could potentially make a good contact later on. Similarly, Jeong-hak pretends that he’s on Gil-dong’s side, when actually he’s laying out his scheme.
Sneakily, he tells Gil-dong about Choongwongoon’s confiscated property after the whole debacle went down four years ago. During their conversation, Jeong-hak slips in that a girl by the name of Eorini was on the list of slaves owned by Choongwongoon at the time of his arrest. At her name, Gil-dong’s expression turns into one of desperation.
This is all a part of Jeong-hak’s plans, which he already discussed with Choongwongoon. Earlier, Jeong-hak asked whether he wanted revenge on Gil-dong, and when the royal replied in the affirmative, he let him know about his scheme to trap Gil-dong using fake news about his sister.
By provoking Gil-dong into physical violence against Choongwongoon (whose royal status has been restored, although his assets were not returned), they would have grounds to arrest him. Since it’s illegal for anyone of lower social class to lay a hand on those of the upper class, Gil-dong would at least go to jail, where they could torture him and at most, he could die in punishment for his violation of the law.
Choongwongoon, after being reminded of Eorini, remembers something and rifles through a book, and it actually does have Eorini’s name in it. Right then, Gil-dong barges into his hut to demand justice for his sister.
Knowing the potential consequences of this encounter, Segul tries to stop him, but Gil-dong didn’t even seem to listen. So Segul goes back to Hwalbin gibang to find the others so that they can come help with the escalating situation.
Choongwongoon taunts Gil-dong by making up stories about Eorini. He tells Gil-dong about how he tried to rape her, and when she wouldn’t acquiesce, he beat her and eventually caused her death.
In the grips of emotion, Gil-dong’s superhuman strength comes to him again. He reaches over to Choongwongoon and throws him around like a toy. Sensing that he might be in completely over his head, Choongwongoon calls for Mori in a desperate plea.
Beneath the trees, Jo Jeong-hak and a troop of soldiers have been lying in wait for evidence of Gil-dong’s violence against the royal. As soon as they see Gil-dong send Choongwongoon flying in the air, Jeong-hak gives the order to arrest Gil-dong.
Thankfully, the Avengers come right on time to fight off the soldiers, leaving Gil-dong to deal with Choongwongoon. All bruised and bloody, he tells Gil-dong the truth when backed up against a tree and in a choking stranglehold: Eorini is alive and her name was recorded in a book called the Heng-rok.
Mori comes to Choongwongoon’s rescue, and an epic battle between the two Mighty Ones commences. Gil-dong and Mori trade powerful blows and they become locked in a stalemate until Mori summons up the extra strength to throw Gil-dong into a wall.
This blow causes Gil-dong to go unconscious. Mori revels in the fact that his strength has really returned. Choongwongoon calls for him again, so he looks back while the Avengers come to tend to Gil-dong.
The Hong brothers take Gil-dong back, but they immediately have to escape because now Gil-dong is a fugitive (for harming a royal). They explain this all to Ga-ryung, who is worried for her beloved. Watching over his sleeping form, she sings a comforting melody to him.
Gil-dong wakes up in a panic, searching for his sister. Everyone rushes into his room, and they see him looking wild-eyed and half-crying for his lost sister. He tells them what Choongwongoon revealed to him: Eorini may be alive.
At the palace, some of the maids are being trained in the courtly art of dance, with Wolhamae counting the beats and playing her instrument. The ambitious girl (the one who volunteered to serve Nok-soo) has no rhythm and falters frequently, while the doe-eyed girl glides gracefully to the beat. So Wolhamae’s eyes only go to her, and she tells the others to sit down.
Wolhamae asks the girl with a natural flair for dance her name, and she replies that it’s Ok-ran (which, in Korean, sounds very similar to Eorini). Although the other maid is obviously jealous, later they’re seen walking together when the purple ribbon slips again, and they both pick it up together (so we still don’t really know which one is Eorini).
When they were at Choongwongoon’s hut, Soboori took a copy of the Heng-rok. And according to Ilchung, it reveals information about the Sugwidan, a group of nobles who upheld “the important values.”
But reading into it reveals that their methods of upholding values were inflicting a series of cruel, harsh punishments against the weak and powerless. In the back of the book, there’s also a list of servants that includes Eorini’s name.
After hearing this, Gil-dong makes a decision and announces it to the rest. He understands that it could be a girl by the same name, but he still wants to pursue this lead, so he lets his Hong brothers know that they are free to choose what they want to do.
They all tell him that he’s crazy if he thinks he’s doing this alone because Eorini was a sister to all of them, and Gil-dong smiles at their support.
Later, when Gil-dong and Ga-ryung are alone together, he tells her that he can’t take her with him on his journey to find Eorini. She accepts that, but she asks that he marry her before he leaves so that she can wait for him as a wife and not a sister this time.
It’s a small ceremony, but it’s official and very sweet, with Ilchung officiating. Sensitive giant Keutsae ends up crying, while comedically, Yonggae wonders aloud about why they’re all still single. When the Hong brothers tease the newlyweds about how many children they’ll have, Ga-ryung laughs good-humoredly, but Gil-dong breaks out into hiccups.
Later, they’re supposedly alone in their room to consummate their bond, but actually, all the Hong brothers are listening right outside the door to give Gil-dong encouragement and advice about doing the deed. Soboori finally gets them all to leave, and looking up at the moon, he tells his friend Amogae that Gil-dong’s all grown up now.
When he hears that the others have left, Gil-dong tugs Ga-ryung toward him in a swoony move. Half-playfully, half-seriously, he begins by telling her that if she didn’t meet him, she could have married a nice, ordinary man. And she replies that if he hadn’t met her, he’s probably be together with one of the exciting, pretty ladies from the gibang.
But Gil-dong tells her that she’s the prettiest girl he’s ever seen, and that she’ll be in his heart forever from now on. He softly kisses her eyes, her nose, and finally, her lips.
The next morning, Ga-ryung has her hair up in a married woman’s coiffure, and Gil-dong looks over at her with a sense of wonder and pride. But unfortunately, he has to leave on his journey to find Eorini that very day.
The first person on their list from the Heng-rok is a nobleman who boasts of burning out the eyes of his servants who dared to read. Soboori approaches him, pretending to be another member of the exclusive Sugwidan.
Trying to show off, the nobleman opens a room to reveal to Soboori his upgraded methods of torture in person. Three servants are hung up by the wrists, while their knees are bloodied from kneeling on cracked porcelain.
The nobleman reveals to Soboori that he doesn’t know anything about Eorini, and now there’s no reason for the Hong brothers to remain in their disguise, because all they were trying to do was find out leads regarding Gil-dong’s sister.
The Great Elder rises from his bowed position as one of Soboori’s servants and makes the executive decision to punish the nobleman in exactly the same way he punished his own servants. The others gladly follow, because they were also outraged by the abuse this noble enacted on his servants. As a plus, they also release the rice from the noble’s grain stores to distribute to his household servants. Using the rice, they spell Hong, leaving a signature flourish.
Although they watch over the happy peasants with a type of prideful joy, Soboori cautions Gil-dong and tells him not to be rash again. Gil-dong agrees, because he started this not to avenge the wrongs of the lower class, but to find his sister.
But along the way, he just can’t help himself when he sees the injustices. And the Hong brothers, being the good men that they are, can’t help but be pulled along into serving out vigilante justice alongside him.
The next Sugwidan member has a half-brother born from a peasant mother who was always a bother to him. When the half-commoner brother dared to walked in front of the noble, he cut off his heels for his insolence, and the brother still walks with a pronounced limp to this day.
This time, Keutsae poses as a Sugwidan nobleman, but similarly, they find nothing about Eorini and the casual cruelty of this noble prompts the Avengers come to him at night and threaten to cut off his heels as well. Taking this noble’s riches, they give out this money to his overworked servants.
In the forest, the Hong brothers reconvene and talk about how their bowel movements have seemed easier and cleaner despite slogging it, because they’ve been doing good deeds. In the middle of discussing farts and making bathroom jokes, Gil-dong suggests that they split up to track down the rest of the Sugwidan.
The others are slightly alarmed at first, but he reinforces his confidence that they will be able to do separately what they’ve been doing together because they’re all connected as part of the Hong clan.
From Segul to Soboori to Eop-san, we see each of the Avengers approaching Sugwidan members in black masks to question them about Eorini. But mainly they dispense just punishment for their rape, torture, and beatings against those who were their social inferiors and those legally at their mercy, be it slaves, women, etc.
Back at the village, Ga-ryung hears rumors about this mysterious vigilante, the Hong Hero. As she walks through town, she hears that he is: short, tall, young, old, ugly, and handsome, with everyone disagreeing on various accounts. Being the only one who knows the secret, she breaks out in a mischievous, knowing smile before proceeding to go back home where she records those tales in her new storybook called the Hong Chun-ji.
In the inner chambers of the palace, Nok-soo holds Yeonsangun in her lap and tells him of the new rumors of the Hong Hero. People say that maybe he’s not a man, but a spirit. Softly cradling him like a baby, she asks why he hasn’t given the order to catch the thief. Opening his eyes while still lying on her lap, Yeonsangun says that a tiger doesn’t seek out a bear to fight (meaning that they have their own niches that don’t necessarily intersect), so he’s letting his court scholars figure it out.
At the administrative bureau, these men deliberate on how to carry out the king’s orders regarding the Hong Hero. Gil-hyun, who is among them, realizes that the places that the Hong Hero has been appearing are the same ones from his investigations in the field; they’re the locations that other people have been disappearing from.
Scholar Song also hears the rumor about the Hong Hero, and he matches up the locations as well. Looking through his copy of the Heng-rok, he realizes that the Hong Hero is going after each member of the Sugwidan.
All right, I know now that Scholar Song be cray-cray, so what is he going to do with this new information? Will he gather the Sugwidan members and appeal to the king, or try to get to the bottom of this himself? Because so far, he’s taken an indirect, passive approach on things, but the mounting level of his passion and paranoia seems to be innately at odds with the patience he’s displayed so far. I want to know what made him that way—and it better be a good reason too, because he’s way too intelligent to be this gung-ho about Sugwidan without having a legitimately traumatic episode behind his passion.
Prior to this episode, Yeonsangun mentioned that Scholar Song was a member of his father’s inner circle, so I’m assuming that past history must have had a lot to do with it. Perhaps he was like Gil-hyun now, so fervently grateful in his loyalty to the king for giving someone lowly like him an opportunity to rise in the ranks that he compensated by espousing this radical ideology on natural social hierarchy. Or maybe he’s just a sadistic psychopath who feels pleasure when oppressing people while pretending to be their moral guide. Either way, Ahn Nae-sang is an amazing actor, and his manic fit at the beginning episode chilled me to the bone with its emotional intensity.
I’m just hoping that Gil-dong has some backup plan, because it doesn’t look like Scholar Song will be an easy opponent. It may be just me, but unfortunately, I’ve stopped connecting with Gil-dong as a character. He has all the tragic family backstory and motivations that make him a sympathetic hero, but something just isn’t clicking with me emotionally. His actions and decisions seem very automatic and one-sided. All that delicious complexity when Amogae was the main protagonist is gone, and I miss it. Even his relationship with Ga-ryung, who is the closest person to him now, just seems mechanical; she’s providing most of the chemistry, and he’s just taking it, which makes for a lopsided onscreen dynamic.
So can you blame me for dipping my pinky toe in the Mori team’s pool? He wasn’t really on my radar until his scene where he killed Heotaehak and revealed the deep source of his twisted nature and also showed the wide range of his emotions. Because I can understand the reasons for his anger and connect with him on that level, I want to root for him a little, despite knowing that he’s a baddie. But who knows? Perhaps he’ll turn over a new leaf and join Gil-dong’s side in the ultimate battle against Yeonsangun. That would make two Mighty Ones pitted against the king with his vast army of resources, and that would be a battle I’d want to see.
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 17
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 16
- 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