Nokdu Flower: Episodes 7-8
The pursuit of freedom is fraught with peril, especially when those with power wish to keep that power and dominion over the poor and weak — and anyone who can be useful is properly manipulated. Once again, idealism and pragmatism clash. How can you fight for freedom and equality without actually fighting? Is “civilization” really all it’s cracked up to be, or just another power-hungry entity to fight against?
EPISODES 7-8 RECAP
Yi-kang stands up to his father, refusing to become a government official. Instead, he proposes that he and his mother leave Master Baek’s household after Yi-hyun is married. Yi-kang will figure out a way to take care of his mother on his own.
But he first needs Master Baek to agree to raise Yi-kang’s mother’s social status so that she’s no longer servant-class. Surprisingly, Master Baek agrees with Yi-kang’s pleading, and tells him to go ahead with his plan.
Outside, Yi-hyun and Yi-kang’s mother eavesdrop, and is there to greet Yi-kang when he leaves Master Baek’s chambers. His mother looks angry, but really she’s relieved that her son made the better choice, and pulls him tight into a hug.
Even though their future and freedom is uncertain, Mom happily trusts her son to take care of her.
In the morning, Yi-kang unwraps a gift brought to him from Yi-hyun. It’s a pair of fancy leather gloves — but Yi-hyun wasn’t the one who bought them. They were actually a gift from Ja-in, who originally imported them from Japan to give to the magistrate. Aw, she really does care, even if she staunchly denies it to the teasing Deok-ki.
At the Baek household, the women are stunned that Yi-kang would turn down the opportunity to take over the business and become a government official. The sniveling weasel of an official stops by, and together Weasel and Master Baek hatch a new plan — one that sends the eavesdropping Yi-hyun sprinting to the kitchen to find his brother.
But Yi-kang has left to go get medicine for the thug he beat up. Yi-hyun looks worried as Mom smiles contentedly at Yi-hyun.
In the marketplace, Yi-kang offers Chul-do the medicine as an apology for the injury he inflicted, but Chul-do just spits at him. The men run into Weasel tormenting a peasant, using torture to get the man to tell the officials who the Donghak members are.
The tortured men says that Yi-kang’s mother is a Donghak follower, and Yi-kang stares in stunned horror.
He rushes back home and begs Master Baek for help. But he quickly realizes that this is all Master Baek’s doing as payback for Yi-kang refusing to become an official. If Yi-kang is so confident that he can take care of his mother, then he should get her out of jail himself without any help from Master Baek.
Furious, Yi-kang demands to know why his father is doing this, and Master Baek says it’s because he’s Yi-kang’s father.
He ominously warns Yi-kang that if he wants to survive in this cruel world, Yi-kang shouldn’t mistake confidence for power — that’s a path that will surely lead to death.
Despite his harsh words to Yi-kang, Master Baek warns Weasel to only put Yi-kang’s mother in jail and not hurt her. Except the soldiers can’t find her.
That’s because Yi-hyun immediately took her away and hid her in a place that, per the adorable child messenger who sought out Yi-kang, was the place where the two brothers shared their first drink. Yi-kang realizes that Yi-hyun took his mother to the temple where they brew their own fruit wine.
But before he can head out there, Yi-kang is determined to clear his mother’s name. He storms over to the hut of the man who was tortured and “confessed” that Yi-kang’s mother is a part of Donghak, but the man has been stabbed in the heart with one of Yi-kang’s unique daggers.
Shocked, Yi-kang leaves the hut, only to be immediately attacked by Chul-do, who stabs Yi-kang in the chest. Chul-do is determined to frame Yi-kang for the murder of the man in the hut, and then kill Yi-kang to make it look like Yi-kang died fighting the man he killed.
But Yi-kang grabs the knife in his chest and, in an act of self-defense, stabs Chul-do in the neck, killing him instantly.
The bodies of the two men are found, and Weasel reports to the magistrate that a witness saw Yi-kang at the hut where the men died. Master Baek insists that Yi-kang might be tough, but he’d never kill anyone. Except the magistrate has decided that Yi-kang must be guilty and is now a fugitive, wanted for murder.
At the temple, Yi-kang’s mother is surprised to see so many other common folk there. Yi-hyun points out they’re also seeking refuge — either as Donghak followers or for being accused of being a Donghak follower, just like her. Yi-hyun is still angry on her behalf, and is surprised that she isn’t outraged, either.
Mom muses that perhaps she’s really no different than the Donghak followers — she’s not an educated woman, but she does believe that people should have the right to live in a world where social status doesn’t matter.
During the night, Yi-kang stumbles through the woods, clutching his injured chest as he frantically runs to the temple. As he crosses a stream, the pain and exhaustion finally overtake him, and he falls onto the river bank, unconscious. Noooo! Don’t drown!
Ja-in and Deok-ki are disguised as traveling peddlers in order to remain inconspicuous as they search for Bong-joon. Ja-in spots one of the Donghak leaders marching with some of the followers, and is satisfied that they’re on the right track.
At the temple, Yi-hyun is antsy because there are so many Donghak refugees there. Mom’s convinced they should be safe, but Yi-hyun wants to move to a different temple. It’s a good idea, especially since the temple is attacked right then by Inspector Lee and his soldiers.
The soldiers attack and kill as many of the Donghak peasants as they can. Yi-hyun grabs Mom and pulls her to a safe hiding spot. Inspector Lee orders his soldiers to spread out and find out if Bong-joon is hiding in the temple. but before they can, the Donghak leader Ja-in saw earlier arrives with his men. It’s military swords against handcrafted spears, and the two sides wage a battle in the temple grounds.
Even Yi-hyun has to fight off a soldier — his own brother-in-law. But he tries to struggle free in order to save Yi-kang’s mother who is being dragged away by the soldiers. Except he doesn’t have to — a sniper from the woods uses a rifle to shoot the soldiers, which frees Yi-kang’s mother.
The mysterious forest sniper also expertly shoots the other soldiers nearby, and her compatriot uses a slingshot and metal ball to knock the magistrate out. Perfect shot! I don’t know who these mysterious mountain warriors are, but they are just as awesome as their rocking fight music as they jump into the melee to support the Donghak followers.
The sniper gets Inspector Lee in her sight and fires off a shot — which knocks off his hat. She didn’t miss, though — it was actually a way for the mountain men on the temple grounds to distinguish which of the soldiers is the inspector.
With help from the mountain warriors, what’s left of Inspector Lee’s army is sent scurrying away. Inspector Lee also managers to get away, but not before the sniper gets off one more shot — into his chest.
Yi-hyun tries to help Yi-kang’s mother escape, but they’re practically climbing a cliff in order to get away and both of them are losing their strength. Suddenly a hand reaches down and pulls Yi-kang’s mother to safety — it’s Bong-joon. He shows them that they’re safe now — the temple is now occupied by the Donghak people.
Bong-joon and Yi-hyun have a chat, and Bong-joon reassures Yi-hyun that he won’t punish the son for the evil deeds of the father. That doesn’t mean Yi-hyun is free to go, though, as Bong-joon asks Yi-hyun more about his education and past. Based on what he hears, Bong-joon thinks Yi-hyun would be a good fit for Donghak.
After all, Yi-hyun knows how cruelly his father has squeezed the people dry. But Yi-hyun believes the Donghak people too violent — Yi-hyun wants to change the world through civilization and educational reform, not through brute force.
Amused, Bong-joon points out that the most barbaric are the countries that claim to be civilized — it is those “civilizations” that invade smaller countries and suck the lifeblood out of the native people, all in the name of colonization. He warns Yi-hyun not to be blinded by the lure of enlightenment.
However, he agrees to let Yi-hyun go — after all, Yi-hyun has a wedding to prepare for, and Bong-joon considers Myung-shin to be family. As Yi-hyun leaves, he warns Bong-joon that the path to the government seat in Jeonju will be rough. Bong-joon placidly says that the path will be paved by the people walking on it.
Outside the temple, which has now become a Donghak camp, Ja-in and Deok-ki marvel at how many people have congregated there. Deok-ki thinks they should report this to the magistrate instead of their Japanese buyer, and they hurry back to Jeonju.
On the way back, they stop by the stream to refresh. They see an outline of a man on the bank, and Deok-ki assumes it’s a dead body. Ja-in recognizes the glove and runs over — it’s Yi-kang! And he’s still alive — barely, yet he still manages to sass her nevertheless. Hee!
Back in Jeonju, Deok-ki reports to the magistrate and Ja-in’s father about the large number of Donghak followers that have set up camp in the temple. Ja-in’s father wonders where his daughter is, and Deok-ki awkwardly lies that she’s looking for the Japanese buyer, but she’s actually in the barn watching over the injured Yi-kang.
Or trying to, but she’s dozed off and is startled awake to find him staring at her. She awkwardly asks him to cover up his bare body, and he grumps that it’s not like she hasn’t already seen it anyway when the doctor treated his wound. Eeee! More bickering!
He’s determined, though, despite his injuries, to go to the temple to find his mother and brother. Worried, Ja-in tells him about the riot and insists that it’s pointless for him to go. They stop in stunned silence when they see a wanted poster with Yi-kang’s picture on it.
Yi-hyun also sees the poster declaring his brother a murderer. He goes to his family, who are relieved that he survived the temple riot. But Yi-hyun has a vacant look in his eye as he stands before his father. A wild grin spreads across his face as he maniacally laughs: “I killed her.”
He explains that he couldn’t let some “lowly servant” ruin his family’s reputation, so he had to kill Yi-kang’s mother. He rips up the wanted poster and vows to kill Yi-kang — calling him “What’s-his-name” — as well.
As Yi-kang determinedly makes his way to the temple, Ja-in sits and frets about what she should do. Trying to hide his face from the people he passes, Yi-kang is eventually over taken by Ja-in on a horse. She orders him to get on.
She points out that the picture of the man in the wanted poster is much too handsome — there’s no way anyone would recognize him. Pfffft. Yi-kang isn’t sure he trusts her, wondering what her angle is. She shrugs, adding that it’s like he said — sometimes you just have to do something because your heart leads you to do it.
In one last desperate shot to get Yi-kang to listen to her, she claims responsibility for his crippled hand. She was the one who told Bong-joon that the townspeople were beating him up. In her defense, she was worried for Yi-kang’s life.
Yi-kang waggles his gloved, crippled hand at her, amazed that she was the one who hurt him and then healed him. He hops up on the horse, pulling her up behind him, and they gallop off into the forest.
Meanwhile, Yi-hyun goes to Teacher Hwang, who can barely look at Yi-hyun. He’s not pleased that Yi-hyun is there, reminding him that he didn’t want to see Yi-hyun until the wedding (to Teacher Hwang’s sister, not his daughter, like I had previously thought). Yi-hyun tells him about Yi-kang, his mother, and the temple, and Teacher Hwang bitterly points out that Yi-hyun returned safely.
Yi-hyun realizes that something is off, and that his beloved teacher is disappointed that Yi-hyun wasn’t killed in the battle. Getting the hint, Yi-hyun leaves.
He runs into Myung-shim on the way out, who worries if he hurt himself since he looks so pale and shaken. But Yi-hyun grabs her to stop her from getting a doctor. Yes, he’s in pain, but it’s nothing medicine can heal — it’s pain for his brother, the murderer.
Yi-kang and Ja-in arrive at the temple, and he rushes around, looking at the faces of all the dead bodies, frantically searching for his mother. He finds her tending to the burials. Mother and son weep in relief as they’re reunited.
Ja-in, who didn’t believe that Yi-kang’s mother would be at the temple (or be alive, for that matter), surprises herself by also getting choked up at their reunion. See, she has a heart!
They return to her inn, and Deok-ki worriedly tells her that Yi-kang is a violent murderer and she should be careful — so his jaw practically drops to the floor when Ja-in waves in Yi-kang and his mother. Yi-kang jokes that Deok-mi must be surprised that he’s even handsomer in person than his picture. Ahahahaha!
Ja-in prepares a room for Yi-kang’s mother, apologizing that it’s nothing special, but Mom is thankful for all that Ja-in has done for them. Yi-kang also gruffly stutters out his own sincere “thank you.” Awwww.
In their small room, mother and son happily chat as she tends to Yi-kang’s wounds. She’s super curious about Yi-kang’s relationship with Ja-in, rattling off all the admirable traits that Ja-in has, including that Ja-in is as beautiful as his mother was when she was young. Ooooh, Mom’s a matchmaker, and I can’t complain! But Yi-kang falls asleep before she can get an answer out of him. Darn it.
Later, Yi-kang watches his mother sleep. He’s not the only one feels protective, because Deok-ki and Ja-in are also keeping an eye on the room as well, sitting outside in the morning when Mom opens the door.
Ja-in gently tells Mom that Yi-kang has already left to return to the temple, but that Ja-in will be happy to have the extra help around the inn if Mom decides to stay.
She then passes along Yi-kang’s message to his mother to wait, just as she did at the temple, and that they’ll be reunited one day. But Mom breaks down in sobs, realizing that her and Yi-kang’s life of freedom isn’t going to be as simple a journey as they thought, and that they may not reunite until heaven.
Pausing in his travels, Yi-kang studies his crippled hand, which is now wearing a finger-less glove. Aw, it was courtesy of Ja-in last night, who was first angry at him for ripping the expensive gloves she gave him, but then she cut off the fingertips to make it more useful. That’s when he told her that he had planned to go see Bong-joon.
In Gobu, Master Baek is still plotting, and gets Weasel to tell him that the meeting to declare new officials will be in one month. Master Baek tells Weasel that he should take over Master Baek’s position, warning Weasel that if tries to back-stab Master Baek again, there will be hell to pay.
The central government is getting antsy about how quickly the Donghak followers are growing and that they were able to defeat the soldiers at the temple. In order to defeat the Donghak followers, the government institutes a draft so that all eligible men will be conscripted as soldiers.
Teacher Hwang goes to Weasel privately and orders him to put Yi-hyun on the draft list. Originally, Yi-hyun was left off it since he was a student, but Teacher Hwang is ruthlessly desperate for any way to prevent Yi-hyun from returning home alive.
Deok-ki delivers Yi-hyun’s rifle. Yi-hyun assembles it and tests it out, staring down the scope.
Ahhhhhh, Yi-kang’s journey is so great (painful, but wonderful)! He’s been near death half-a-dozen times already and yet it somehow only makes him stronger and more confident about who he really is. I love that he refuses to be swayed by power and money — his momma brought him up right if he’s now determined to protect her and (potentially) the other people who are stuck being poor and helpless just because of the class they were born in. I also love that he can be at death’s door and yet can still be sassy, especially with Ja-in. (Eeee, the fact that everyone around them is noticing their flirtation is hilarious, especially since they keep denying it. They’re just lying to themselves!)
I’m worried about Yi-hyun, though. At first I thought he was also putting on an act when he vowed to kill Yi-kang, just like he lied about killing Yi-kang’s mother. It seemed a smart way to get the rest of the family to leave Yi-kang alone and allow Yi-hyun to get mother and son to safety, then pretend that they died so that Master Baek could end his quest for vengeance. But now I’m worried that Yi-hyun genuinely believes that Yi-kang killed two people (well, he did kill one, but out of self-defense! Not anger!), and that Yi-hyun feels Yi-kang might be a lost cause. I’d hope that Yi-hyun would have better trust in his brother, considering all they’ve been through — but Yi-hyun was gone for so long, and Yi-kang was a pretty ruthless enforcer when Yi-hyun finally returned. He might not be all that shocked that Yi-kang would do such a thing, after all.
Ja-in is still an utter delight. She’s so confident and independent and smart. I agree with Mom — she’s quite the catch! Yi-kang could be so lucky! I’m so happy that Ja-in’s wasted little time realizing that following her heart is actually pretty rewarding, and I believe that, when she teared up watching what she thought would be an impossible reunion between mother-and-son, she might be learning a little something about miracles, too. I worry about her being caught up in the battles, though. We already know war took a toll on her father, and even though merchants might try to not choose sides, Ja-in seems to have picked her side already. I know it’s the “right” one, but I want reassurance that she believes it’s the right one, too, no matter what happens to her bottom line.
At least we know how the brothers will end up on opposite sides. Yi-hyun will be drafted, and even if he doesn’t agree with everything the government does and hates the corruption he sees, he still seems the type who will lawfully follow the order presented to him. And Yi-kang will invariably become part of the Donghak people. Just like that temple battle, where brother and brother-in-law fought against each other, I can now see how brother-and-brother will face-off against each other, too. I just don’t like it, though! I want my bromance back!
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