Oh. My. God. Amazing episode. It really pulled at my heartstrings while giving me an action-packed adventure through Yoon Kang’s last moments in his old life. I thought it was impossible to be even more excited about Lee Jun Ki already, but I fell deeper in love with the actor and the character in this episode.
Yoon Kang and Park gallop to Baek Mountain, aware that there are two gunmen left that he will probably have to fight against. It’s two against two, so Yoon Kang and his father have got a shot if they split up and attack on two fronts. Meanwhile, Park’s second-in-command Moon Il Do (Choi Chul Ho) leads the soldiers to Hwagye Mountain.
The first gunman is pretty sure that Park is around and starts taunting him to come forward and save Yeon Ha. Meanwhile Won Shin serves as a backup, keeping a sharp eye on the fields from his position up high. He sees some tall grass rustle and immediately shoots, thus giving away the trap. But it’s only a rabbit in the tall grass, and by the time he can reload his gun, Park is already leaping towards the first gunman.
Park chases after the first gunman while Yoon Kang’s arrow finds a home in Won Shin’s arm. I love how we get a view of the gunman’s aim through his eye line, as if the camera were a scope. The two gunmen rendezvous on the run and Yoon Kang shoots his arrow again. This time he definitely does not miss and hits the first gunman in the back. Oh my God Yoon Kang – why are you so cool?!
While the gunmen run, Park quickly frees his daughter from the ropes tying her to the tree and the family rushes back to where the horses are. Along the way they are attacked by the gunmen. Park tells his children to run ahead to the horses while he leads the gunmen off.
Back in Seoul Leader Kim tells the conservative party that killing Park Jin Han is the resolution to their goals. They need to make sure that Emperor Gojong will never go against their word or their will again, and will bend his knees to their power. VP Kim offers to help but the other lords say it’ll be too obvious if he gets involved. He’ll just need to help wrap up their plans… which we’ll learn more of later this episode.
VP Kim returns home and finds Ho Kyung waiting for him. He’s not too happy to see his illegitimate son of a concubine (!!!) trying to act filial and greet him when their ideals don’t match up. He insults Ho Kyung, saying that the only reason he believes in the enlightenment is because he’s jealous of what his legitimate children have, and as the bastard is rebelling. We get a brief flashback of Ho Kyung telling Hyeon Am of his family, and Hyeon Am told him to keep it hidden for now. If they are to have others believe in his words and support the enlightenment, it will not help if they know he’s from VP Kim’s family. Only at the right time will they tell the truth. Until then, even Soo In and her family don’t know of his ties to VP Kim.
Ho Kyung returns home to find Soo In standing outside the door worriedly. She tells him about Yoon Kang’s situation and begs Ho Kyung to take her to Hwagye Mountain and see what’s going on. Even though he tries to dissuade her she insists on just going to make sure Yoon Kang and Yeon Ha are safe. After all, it is partially her fault all this happened in the first place.
Yoon Kang and Yeon Ha reach the horses and he sends his sister ahead on one. She is to find the soldiers at the city gate and inform them that the gunmen are at Baek Mountain instead of Hwagye. He then heads back into the forest to find his father, who unfortunately just got shot in the leg. Despite the wound Park manages to find refuge in a cave, hidden from the gunmen. He attracts Yoon Kang’s attention by throwing some stones at him, and then they regroup.
Along the way back to the city Yeon Ha bumps into Soo In and Ho Kyung, who are following the soldiers from a distance. She hurriedly tells them where her family is, and Ho Kyung offers to go get the troops. But Soo In has a better idea that’ll get them to her faster: she shoots her small pistol in the air.
Park tells Yoon Kang that he’s sure the same gunman who chased after him and Soo In is the one who kidnapped Yeon Ha. He also believes that the gunmen are related to the Gyeonggi merchant group, and knows that the main one has a scar on his left arm because of his sword. The kidnapping occurred because he was investigating them, and he feels extremely guilty that his family keeps suffering because of his actions. He finally tells his son about what happened 13 years ago, when his wife was killed.
Park had located the thieving slaves’ location, but did not attack for fear of them hurting his wife. However his commanding officer told him to wrap up the business immediately before the governor came to town. So Park rushed into the slaves’ camp and attacked. He was led to believe that his wife was being held in one house, but it was only a mannequin casting the shadow. Instead, the leader had the wife and threatened to kill her if he made another move against them. Park didn’t listen, trying to eliminate them all as soon as possible, and attacked. The leader then stabbed the wife in her heart right before his very eyes.
Yoon Kang is immensely hurt by this. From this story it’s clear that his father had a plan that could save his mother but he wasn’t given a chance to act on that plan. If he had known about this story sooner he might not have blamed his father all these years. But Park wanted to feel punished in some way because no matter what he was unable to save his wife.
Yoon Kang then spots the soldiers coming towards them, not too far away. But the gunmen are even closer, and heading right towards the cave. Park wants his son to escape. He’d feel more at ease now knowing that his son can take care of Yeon Ha, and is ready to go reunite with his wife in heaven. Yoon Kang stubbornly refuses to leave his father alone to die, so Park karate-chops his neck and knocks him unconscious. It’ll be enough to keep his son safe while he heads off the gunmen.
The gunmen track Park through the forest based on his blood stains from his gunshot wound. Park manages to attack the first gunman with a well-placed stab in his chest, but before he can finish the gunman off he is shot in the abdomen by Won Shin, who appears right behind him. Undeterred, Park swings his sword at Won Shin and is shot again, this time in the chest. Now he has too many gunshot wounds to survive from, and Park falls to the ground.
Won Shin stands above him and pulls down his scarf, revealing his identity. Park got too close to the truth, and for that he had to die. Won Shin then grabs his comrade and they hurry off, leaving Park to die. By the time Yoon Kang wakes up and tracks his father, Park is already dead. The soldiers, Ho Kyung, and Soo In all arrive too late to witness the sad scene.
Back in court, VP Kim plays out his part of the plan. He informs Emperor Gojong that Park was planning high acts of treason. A subordinate, the corrupt palace soldier under Won Shin’s payroll, had “reported” to VP Kim that Park was going to frame Gojong’s father, Prince Heungseon, as being the one behind the gunman. Gojong doesn’t believe that Park would ever do that, but VP Kim encourages him to act immediately because it’s a treasonous topic. Even Gojong’s wife agrees with VP Kim. She doesn’t think of whether Park is innocent or not because the fact of the matter is that the conservative party is the ruling party that can instate a new king if it so wishes. She wants her husband to lay low for now and to save his fight for another day. And sadly, she is right.
It’s been a long night for Yeon Ha and Yoon Kang as Yeon Ha finally falls asleep and Yoon Kang gathers strength to prepare for the funeral. Soo In offers to do the preparations, feeling intensely guilty even though Ho Kyung reminds her it’s not her fault. But Yoon Kang wants to do it himself. After being such a bad son for the past 13 years he wants to be able to do one thing right for his father.
Just as Yoon Kang leaves the house, some guards come running towards Soo In’s house. By decreed of the emperor, Park has been convicted of high treason and will be beheaded along with his son. Yeon Ha is to be sold off as a slave. The guards burst into the room to take Yeon Ha and Park’s body away. Soo In tries to stop them but the guards push her away. Fearing for what will happen to Yoon Kang, Ho Kyung quickly goes to arrange a boat that will take Yoon Kang far away to a secluded temple. Soo In’s job is to find Yoon Kang before the guards do and close the city gates.
Yoon Kang’s first stop is to visit Won Shin’s home. He relays his father’s evidence that the gunmen have something to do with the Gyeonggi merchants, and that one of them has a scar on his left arm. Won Shin tenses, and defensively says that there are many merchants under his group so he can’t know if the gunmen are in his group. So Yoon Kang asks him for help. These gunmen are criminals, so to save face for his entire group Won Shin should try to help Yoon Kang and find the people who killed Park. He gives Won Shin a day to think it over, otherwise Won Shin will become his number one suspect. Won Shin recognizes that Yoon Kang is going to be a threat and knows he’s going to have to finish him off.
Yoon Kang then heads to the market to buy some funeral clothing and Soo In finally catches up to him before the guards do. She quickly tells him what’s going on and urges him to go meet Ho Kyung’s boatman. Yoon Kang would rather go save his sister but that would mean certain death for him. If the guards find him he’ll have no chance of surviving. If he runs, he can come back for his sister, who’ll only be a slave (and therefore will most likely live to see many more days than he). She promises to do all she can to protect Yeon Ha. Until the siblings can reunite, he must run.
The guards catch him and they quickly run through the stalls, hiding and avoiding the guards for just long enough to make it to the city gate. Unfortunately the guards there have just received Yoon Kang’s wanted poster. Yoon Kang tells Soo In to go ahead and get through the city gates first. He’ll make it through somehow.
A guard catches him and Yoon Kang blocks his attack and flips him over. He’s not only a master at swordfighting, but also at martial arts. He takes down numerous guards without so much as wielding a weapon and makes a run for it through the gates, grabbing Soo In along the way.
They run through the forest and hide deep off the path to escape the guards. It’s becoming more real to him that he is going to be leaving, and asks Soo In when they’ll see each other again. He had just determined that his dream was to see her every day, to be with her every single day, for the rest of his life. And now he has to leave her. Aww…
The two of them quickly head to the shore and find the boat man. Ho Kyung had just left to go look for them, so they just missed each other. The boat man urges Yoon Kang to quickly get on board in case they have to make a quick escape. Soo In promises to take care of Yeon Ha and gives him her compass. If he ever finds himself lost, he can use it to guide his path. She wants him to come back alive so that they can fulfill his dream of being together forever, every day. Oh man, and the tears are starting in my eyes.
Yoon Kang walks on the makeshift gangplank, but turns as if to say something else. And that’s when Soo In runs over and hugs him. She loves him! And that’s not all – he kisses her! Oh these two really want to make me heartbroken, and I can’t help but recall memories of Time Between Dog and Wolf…
Suddenly Ho Kyung comes riding up to them. The soldiers are following behind and closing in quickly! Yoon Kang hurries to the boat and Soo In mounts Ho Kyung’s horse. They run and Yoon Kang watches them leave as the arrows come flying at him and the boat man. Dude – why are you still standing?! Get down!
Little do they realize there’s another gunman hidden in the fields. Won Shin aims, and fires. It hits Yoon Kang right in the heart. And he falls into the river in front of Soo In’s very eyes. Oh. God.
Soo In screams for Yoon Kang but Ho Kyung wisely continues riding until she is far enough. When he finally lets her dismount, she wants to head back. They need to find his body! They need to save him from the river! She is most certainly in denial about the gunshot wound. The guards also give up on finding his body and rule him as dead. The Park family line as far as the court knows is finished.
But we know better! Yoon Kang can’t die!
And sure enough his body has been retrieved by some men on their way to Jemulpo Port. His savior is Kim Ok Gyun, another man of the Enlightenment under Gojong who wants to help westernize Korea. As a civil servant, it seems he’s escaped the ire of the conservative party for now. Kim Ok Gyun takes responsibility for the unconscious Yoon Kang, who’s life was saved when the bullet struck not his heart but the compass. If Yoon Kang wakes before they reach the port then he’ll stay in Jemulpo. If he wakes after, then he’ll go with them to Japan.
Three years pass, and we’re back in Jemulpo Port.
This time Won Shin and Hye Won are at the port to await the arrival of a powerful Japanese merchant Yamamoto’s right hand man, Hanjo. In another house Soo In and Jan Yi are waiting with Ho Kyung for a special shipment that’s due to arrive. We’re not sure what it is, but I almost want to say the ‘precious cargo’ she wishes to purchase is a compass.
And then suddenly a fight breaks out on the port. A bunch of laborers with their own argument start beating each other with their fists and their swords, letting cargo fall off into the water without a care in the world.
A shot rings out and a man falls. Everyone turns to look where the gun shot came from. It’s from a rowboat that came from Yamamoto’s ship. It’s from a strikingly handsome young man in a suit and spectacles, holding a revolver. It’s Hanjo. Better known as Yoon Kang.
Oh. My. I am SO SO SO SO SO SO excited for the next episode. I think this was a good bridge for the earlier episodes and for what was to come. While it was predictable I still felt very emotionally attached and surprised for every turn that the characters made. I think it’s partly because Lee Jun Ki made his character so likable, because Yoon Kang, for all his frivolity, is an honest and simple guy who is upfront about his feelings. I love that we get to see him be intimidated by Soo In and her big dreams, and yet not afraid to love her. And I love that he will become a more worldly man in the coming episodes after his time in Japan.
I can’t wait for the confrontation that will ensue between Yoon Kang and Won Shin, and I wonder how the merchant is going to take it. I feel like he’ll recognize Yoon Kang soon enough and it will be a tricky balance of wanting to get rid of Yoon Kang while also wanting to maintain a strong financial tie to Yamamoto and Japan. I’m sure his personal animosity will win out in the end, but I’d like to see him struggle a bit.
I’m also grateful for the current friendship between Soo In and Ho Kyung. It doesn’t seem romantic (yet?) and I hope it never does. Like I had said in a previous recap for Angel Eyes, I like seeing a man and woman have a deep friendship without being romantic. I think Soo In and Ho Kyung respect each other as colleagues and I hope that in the three years that have passed things have not become romantic on either side. Perhaps for the sake of K-dramas it has, but for now I’d like to think it hasn’t.
Here’s to hoping for more Lee Min Woo in this drama too.