Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 27
Now that there’s only one more family member to rescue from behind enemy lines, we know that the impending reunion between our married couple will be heartbreaking (if the first episode was any indication), so it’s time to start bracing ourselves. Unfortunately for our hero, despite the people rallying to his side, they’re still the underdogs in the fight against Yeonsangun’s violence-driven control of the nation.
EPISODE 27 RECAP
The people shout as they come to save Gil-dong and the rest of his men from the royal forces, “We’ll come to your rescue this time, General.” With an expression mixed with gratefulness and awe at the miraculous salvation, they begin fighting again with a reinvigorated fervor, and soon the royal army turns back to retreat with their tails tucked between their legs.
When the general comes to report his crushing defeat against the rebel army, Yeonsangun sits in his throne room clearly upset at this new development. His courtiers cower while his general delivers the disappointing news, and when the king hears that it’s Gil-dong leading the rebel army, he becomes infuriated.
After the end of the battle, despite their victory, many have been injured and some have even lost their lives, including the man that Gil-dong once personally encouraged (who later led the rescue efforts that saved the rebel army). Gil-dong and the Hong band stand in front of the graves of the fallen, and he resolves: “I will never forget you.”
Back at the cave, people are being treated for their injuries, including some of the more experienced members of the Hong brotherhood. Eorini sees Yonggae being bandaged up, and tears come to her eyes as she first witnesses the tolls of battle on the closest thing to an uncle-like figure in her life. She reaches out to hold his hand, and despite the pain, he grits his teeth, smiles, and welcomes her back.
Alone, Gil-dong ponders words that Yeonsangun said to him in prison regarding violence and how to control the citizenry. While he’s lost in deep thought, Gil-hyun comes up to him, and when he sees his brother, Gil-dong playfully says that he’s fallen a long way from being a close advisor to the king to the nation’s most wanted traitor.
Gil-hyun replies that it’s just his luck for having such a rascal for a little brother, and then Eorini joins them. She covers Gil-dong’s eyes with her hands, and it’s an instant deja vu moment back to the days when life was simpler at Ikhwari, under Amogae’s protective presence.
It’s been such a long time since this familiar action, and it makes Gil-dong emotional, but he replies as he always does and asks if it’s Ugly Girl (“Motnani” is an affectionate term that connotes ugliness) who’s covering his eyes. Soon, the rest of the original Amogae Avengers show up, and together they all call up to Amogae to thank him for reuniting their family.
At the palace, the king meets with Scholar Song only to tell him not to come into his royal presence for the time being (as he’s still annoyed by the Park Ha-sung/Gil-hyun revelation). He assigns Choongwongoon to be his temporary replacement as the head of the Sugwidan.
After they leave the king, Scholar Song expresses his discontent at Choongwongoon’s uppity behavior against him, but there doesn’t seem to be any remnant of loyalty in that quarter. Choongwongoon just coldly tells the scholar that he seems to be forgetting his place and forgetting the fact that Choongwongoon was born a royal, implying that this role reversal should have been the original relationship dynamic all along.
When Choongwongoon gathers the Sugwidan members in a meeting, he pushes his own agenda to isolate and expel Scholar Song from the organization. To his fellow Sugwidan members, he tells them that Scholar Song is no longer in favor because of his mistake with Park Ha-sung, adding that they need to find Gil-dong in order to regain the king’s favor and stay safe under the bloody tyrant’s reign.
In Hyangjumok, some young students post up flyers that spread ideas protesting the king’s unjust actions. However, they’re caught by soldiers who chase after them. One young man manages to get back home, and his mother reprimands her son, telling him not to engage in any activities that are against the king, no matter how unfair his actions may seem. He quickly makes his excuses to go hide further inside the house, but soon the soldiers barge in and forcefully take him away to the mother’s great distress.
Tracking down the other students, soldiers raid anywhere that seems to be a hiding place. One young woman makes the mistake of glancing to the large jar containing one of the young men who posted the flyers. He’s immediately taken, tied up, and the group of women who hid him are also dragged along. When people try to free them, they’re beaten and even killed by the soldiers in broad daylight on public streets.
Meanwhile, Gil-dong and his crew are still back at their lair discussing how to best go about the situation, which looks dire because of the king’s endless troops and resources. Then, Yonggae explains his own personal story, saying that his one goal in life was not to die like his own father, a poor thief hanged for his crimes.
He says that he enjoyed living the high life of a rich merchant when they were in Ikhwari as well as Hanyang, but he knew that they had turned a blind eye to the citizens, and so he says they have a duty to go to Hyangjumok and rescue them. Yonggae continues by saying that he doesn’t see this rescue as being an optional endeavor—he’s doing this in order to repay a long-time debt. His speech puts the entire situation in a different perspective for Gil-dong an the rest of the Hong brothers.
Finally sparking on an idea, Gil-dong approaches one of the women, whose eyes become wide at the fact that the general is speaking with little ol’ her. He tells her his plan, and although she looks a little starstruck at first, she quickly gets the gist and helps implement it.
His plan is to use the women to smuggle their weapons into Hyangjumok so that they can conquer from the inside out. Hyangjumok’s version of the TSA is not gender-equal since they only give men the full pat-down, which means that the women are able to hide the swords and knives in their skirts.
Eorini, wanting to do her part for the rebel effort, joins the women and pads several weapons in her underskirt, although Uncle Soboori protests. He tries to persuade her from it, thinking it’s too dangerous, and he even tries to get Gil-dong and Gil-hyun to help him. However, they just laugh, having given up, and say that she’ll still do what she wants to because that stubborn side of her, inherited from Amogae, exists in all of them.
In the magistrate’s courtyard, citizens and students alike have been rounded up and beaten. They kneel in front of the soldiers who begin an unfair investigation to find out the “truth.” They ask who’s behind the spread of the rebellious propaganda, and when a woman refuses to name any names, she’s immediately slashed down by the guard behind her.
Seeing her being killed right in front of their eyes, the people rally to stop the soldiers, but without weapons, they’re all ruthlessly cut down. And just as they’re about to lose all hope, Gil-dong strides in with the Hong brothers to the rescue. As Gil-dong makes the king’s soldiers retreat, he tells them to send this message to the king: “Hyangjumok doesn’t need soldiers that kill its citizens.”
Gil-dong and crew fight and defeat the soldiers, but at the end of the takeover, it almost seems like an empty victory because they’re standing in a sea of dead bodies. Although the citizens call for others to come out now that the battle is finished, no one else appears because half are lying dead at their feet.
Later, the bodies are organized in rows, some covered in white shrouds, others still just bloody. The mother who nagged at her son not to go against the king finds her beloved son in the midst of the still corpses and weeps her heart out.
When Yeonsangun hears that his soldiers in Hyangjumok have also been defeated by Gil-dong, he laughs at the absurdity. But it’s definitely not a joking-ha-ha-type laughter; it’s an angry chuckle that promises revenge. When Jeong-hak offers his life in return for his failure to capture Gil-dong, Yeonsangun is very tempted to kill him. But someone calls him, bringing him to his senses and preventing him from doing so. Instead, the king says to Jeong-hak that he’s only alive through the grace of his mother’s initial good deed of telling Yeonsangun about the deposed queen.
Jeong-hak tells Yeonsangun that he will willingly die for him on the battlefield by confronting Gil-dong. The king asks him whether he has an army willing to die for him like Park Ha Sung/Gil-hyun does, but Jeong-hak replies in the negative, giving an alternative answer that pleases the king.
Jeong-hak says that while he may not have an army loyal to himself, he does have an army that’s only loyal to the king. So, he’s dispatched to confront Gil-dong at Hyangjumok, and Mistress Jo tells Jeong-hak not to come back until he’s killed Gil-dong, otherwise he’d be dishonoring her and his late father. An immense force lead by Jeong-hak and Mori then heads to Hyangjumok.
People gather in Hyangjumok to debate their situation: A speaker stands up and asks the crowd whether they think they’re really committing treason by complaining about being forced to pay exorbitant taxes, having their land taken away, and their daughters forced into the king’s harem. Surely, these are reasonable complaints that don’t pass the boundary to treachery. But another man rebuts with the practical argument: The people of Hyangjumok are helpless—they have no way to fight against the relentless influx of royal troops.
The mother who lost her son through this past incursion then rises and tells the people that her biggest regret is letting her son learn to read, because that’s where he got the ideas of becoming an honorable man. When he saw the injustices being perpetrated by the king, she adds, he became motivated to do something about it, and was thus killed for his actions. In a powerful statement, Segul adds on that they aren’t choosing to pick a fight—they’re just fighting in order to not be killed.
Jeong-hak arrives at Hyangjumok with a formidable battalion of soldiers behind him, and he shouts for a parlay before they actually begin battle. Gil-dong and Gil-hyun descend from the gate to face Jeong-hak and Mori. The scene is absolutely delicious in a meta sense, because the four-way meeting is shown like a mirrored image of foils: We see the two scholars, one slave-born and one noble-born with Gil-hyun against Jeong-hak and the two Mighty Children—one choosing the right path and one choosing the wrong one with Gil-dong against Mori.
Despite Jeong-hak wanting to lord over the fact that Gil-dong and Gil-hyun were once his father’s slaves, Gil-hyun just smirks because he knows now that social birth is not an indicator of potential, especially since he (as Park Ha-sung) was able to rise much higher than Jeong-hak when they still worked together for the king. Needless to say, the discussion doesn’t end well, and the battle begins.
Meanwhile, the king is at the palace playing catch-me with his musical troupe girls. Nok-soo and Ga-ryung watch from the side, not participating in the jarringly playful festivities. For the first time, they have a real discussion about Gil-dong, the man both of them love.
From Ga-ryung, Nok-soo learns that Gil-dong did come back for her, and that he pined for her for a long time. However, Ga-ryung won him over because she patiently waited for him. Still perhaps a little insecure about Gil-dong’s love for her, Ga-ryung says some hurtful things to Nok-soo, saying that perhaps she was the main reason that Ga-ryung ended up with Gil-dong. When she’s back alone in her room, Ga-ryung confesses aloud that she’s jealous of Gil-dong’s powerful and passionate past love for Nok-soo.
In Hyangjumok, there’s an air of hopefulness despite all the recent tragedy, and the people gather to help each other for the communal good. Ilchung brings up the need for medical supplies, and everyone pitches in ideas about how to procure them. Because they’re scarce on herbs, they organize groups to go gather them. Because they’re low on food, they decide to share amongst each other.
But the king’s soldiers have destroyed all the roads that lead to Hyangjumok and have spread false rumors about how all the people there are liars and thieves. So unfortunately, the rest of the Joseon people don’t know about their plight and can’t/won’t come to their rescue.
In the palace gardens, Nok-soo and Ga-ryung have another discussion where Nok-soo comments to Ga-ryung that love is a passing fancy, but this just makes Ga-ryung angry. Having witnessed the deepness of Gil-dong’s longing for her, and having painfully experienced the one-sided love of one who loves another, Ga-ryung can’t understand how Nok-soo can be so cavalier about her time with Gil-dong.
The jealousy bug strikes again, and Ga-ryung pointedly retorts that it must be so, because Yeonsangun has stopped visiting Nok-soo’s chambers. This remark tips Nok-soo into a highly dangerous mood, and she lashes out, asking whether Ga-ryung would be equally as impertinent if her life were put on the line. She replies that she stopped being afraid of death when Gil-dong died.
Nok-soo resolves to meet the king again, despite his direct orders not to come near him for the time being. She explains to Wolhamae that the king doesn’t actually want her dead because if he did, he would have executed her already. And while she can withstand insults about her character and her person, she hates being told her choices were wrong, which is essentially what Ga-ryung said by implying that not waiting for Gil-dong was a mistake.
When the king is walking down the hallway, Nok-soo kneels in front of him and begs his forgiveness, confessing her previous relationship with Gil-dong. He grabs her in a stranglehold, but she looks straight into his eyes, promises him that she knows another way to catch the thief, and asks if he’ll trust her when Gil-dong is caught. He looks furious, but the scene cuts to Ga-ryung being taken away, so it looks like Yeonsangun decided to listen to Nok-soo after all.
Ga-ryung is dragged in front of the king, who demands for her to reveal everything. She says that she’ll tell him the absolute truth, but requests that he come nearer to her. Once he’s a few inches from her, she goes toward him as if she is going to whisper in his ear, and he leans in.
However, instead of telling him anything, she bites down on his ear so fiercely that blood is drawn. He stumbles back in shock, and she lets out a crazed laugh about how he is the beast that killed her husband, which causes Yeonsangun to become angry again. In a moment of fury, he wants to chop off her head, but Nok-soo reminds him that they need to use Ga-ryung effectively, and in order to do that, they need to keep her alive.
Nok-soo visits Ga-ryung in prison, and she finally lets Ga-ryung know that Gil-dong is alive. She tells her that she’s fine no matter how the scenario turns out—it’s a win-win situation for her, because if Gil-dong loves Ga-ryung, he’ll lose the battle, and if Gil-dong sacrifices Ga-ryung for the battle, then it’s a validation that Ga-ryung isn’t as important to him as perhaps Nok-soo once was. Ga-ryung is completely dazed by the news that her husband is alive, but once she realizes the implications of that, she calls out futilely to Nok-soo.
However, the meeting took more of a toll on Nok-soo than she let on to Ga-ryung, because her eyes are watery when she comes out. Wolhamae asks why she’s crying, and Nok-soo doesn’t answer, but it’s like she is mourning the last vestiges of her humanity that she’s given up by betraying both Ga-ryung and Gil-dong.
Outside, a soldier keeps repeating for Hyangjumok to surrender, and in order to drown out his cries, the people begin to sing. Soon, everyone joins in, including commoner soldiers from the king’s army. Through song, the people gain courage to move to their assigned tasks, whether it be standing at arms or evacuating the weak and infirm.
An epic battle ensues with arrows, cannons, and spears all thrown in the midst. Gil-dong is at the front and defends the wall by shouting orders to the archers. When a battering ram comes close, jugs of flammable alcohol and fiery arrows are shot down, and the soldiers scream below. But they keep coming closer to scale the wall with ladders while continuing to fight on ground. While there are massive casualties on both sides, at the end of the day, Gil-dong is successful in protecting the wall.
Yeonsangun is disappointed to learn that Hyangjumok has not fallen, and decides that if he wants a job done right, he has to do it himself. He announces that he will be going on a people-hunting expedition to Hyangjumok, and he expects a large retinue of entertainers as well as troops from every province to support him.
Back at Hyangjumok, Jeong-hak blows up at Mori for not being able to open up the gate doors when he’s notified of Yeonsangun’s arrival. The king says he’s brought a present that will make Jeong-hak’s task easier—and to Mori’s surprise, when he peers into the darkened cage, he sees Ga-ryung gagged and cuffed.
Later, she’s tied up in the prisoner’s tent to the central pole, and he goes to free her of her bindings to give her some breathing room. But as soon as she’s taken off the pole, she tries to commit suicide by ramming her body toward a pitchfork and slamming her head against any hard surface she can find. Taken aback, Mori stops her, and between tears, she explains the situation. She asks him to kill her because she needs to die without Gil-dong knowing so that he won’t be faced with an unsolvable dilemma.
Gil-dong walks the ramparts, looking over the hurt men and surveying the scene. But he’s also tired, so he sits down and dozes off in a moment of fatigue, and he dreams of Ga-ryung.
In his dream they’re in a field, and she holds flowers to his nose while gazing up at him lovingly. She tells him: “I’m coming to see you soon, but don’t be surprised at what state you find me in. You have to promise to do as I say.”
Before he can respond properly to her, he wakes up. She’s gone, and it’s Eorini holding flowers in her place. His sister vaguely mentions that she remembers an unni at the palace (referring to Ga-ryung) who had been kind to her. It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come, because in that moment, Keutsae tells Gil-dong that he needs to come quickly.
When he gets to the central outer gate, Gil-dong sees his wife again: Ga-ryung has been blindfolded and strung up to a post facing the Hyangjumok. She screams to him: “If you stop because of me, I’ll never see you again!”
He shouts her name, and it’s the first real confirmation that she has that he’s alive. It’s a bittersweet moment as she feels simultaneous joy at finding him again and despair at their current situation. They shout and cry in deep longing and sorrow for each other while Yeonsangun watches with great relish at the scene unfolding, eagerly anticipating his enemy’s anguish.
From the beginning, we knew that it would come to this, but I didn’t really think the writers would carry it through without providing at least a small escape route. I care for Ga-ryung and Nok-soo’s arc so much more than this Yeonsangun—Gil-dong business, which has been dragging out forever. However, I did think that the whole jealousy issue that occurred in their two conversations together wasn’t done with the subtle touch that their previous scenes together had displayed. For a long time, I thought that Nok-soo’s main motivation was surviving the long game, but after this episode, I’m starting to be confused as to what her real reasons for her actions are.
Logically, her offering Ga-ryung to Yeonsangun as bait for Gil-dong doesn’t make sense because it seems like she still holds Gil-dong in affection, and this could get him killed. Did that remaining affection die when Ga-ryung announced that he had married her? Perhaps jealousy propelled her as well, but from the way she phrased it to Wolhamae, it seemed more like she can’t stand the idea that she could be wrong, and that’s making her commit these atrocities. As for Ga-ryung, she has grown from one of the side-fringe characters to one of the main emotional centers of the drama, so I really don’t want her to die. (I’m crossing my fingers that maybe Mori will come to the rescue and they’ll ride off into the sunset together after Gil-dong dies in mortal combat with Yeonsangun.)
Does anyone feel like they were somehow unknowingly and gradually transitioned from a must-watch sageuk to a slightly less captivating but still interesting one? Perhaps it’s the length of the run time, but Rebel feels like it was initially an innovative drama with powerful characters that somehow got smushed together with a spinoff version with most of the same characters but not the same level of awesomeness in the latter half.
Speaking of which, most of the time Amogae’s storyline played out, his primary motivator was the manifestation of Gil-dong’s supernatural power. Even up to the point that Gil-dong and Eorini are captured and he loses his memory, Gil-dong displayed immense potential for physical destruction. However, in this episode, his Mighty Child strength is written off like it’s only slightly better than a normal strongman. What happened to my green-eyed Gil-dong hulk-beast? At the beginning, they kind of explored themes of identity when Gil-dong didn’t want to use his powers and suppressed them unconsciously because he didn’t want to be viewed as a beast. Those topics were highly interesting to me because it brings up questions about individuality and acceptance, which is highly applicable to even today’s society. But nope, they were never touched upon again after Gil-dong’s transformation into the “Great Elder.” Plus, are we never going to figure out what happened to the tiger in the forest? We only have three episodes left, and I’m still waiting.
All in all, it may be that the drama bit off more than it could chew. It tried to incorporate all these supernatural themes while also having a huge secondary cast with lots of screen time, which decreased the amount of time spent developing the main characters’ own stories. So what we’ve ended up with is a couple characters with complex motivations, and very many that we’re familiar with and feel are acquaintances, but to whom we have no vested interest in learning more about. But I must admit most of my near-tears moments have happened while watching the citizenry rise up and use their individually meager but collectively great might to work together with our hero to accomplish a greater goal. For instance, that scene where one woman began singing, and everyone from the Hong brothers to the shamaness to the youngest children began chiming along in a haunting melody—that was pure gold.
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