Joseon Gunman: Episodes 19-20 Recap

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Hitting two birds with one stone in this recap! It’s pretty intertwined because the plans are set in motion for another uprising – this time one that hopes to better the state of Joseon. However one must wonder, are all these rebellions doing any good for Joseon as a whole? We know where this leads… Bridal Mask is pretty much the result.

Episode 19

The police arrive, led by the trusty Jung Hoon, to arrest Yamamoto. Won Shin argues that as a foreigner Yamamoto should be exempt from such arrests, but the law only protects them if they remain at the port. If Won Shin wants to help him now, he’ll have to go to the Japanese legation and seek diplomatic assistance.

Yoon Kang gives Won Shin a special smirk: what is Won Shin going to do now, now that the one man he’s been relying on will be ruined? This little act of revenge is now for Kanemaru.

Close friends bury Kanemaru, and Soo In fears that the next body she’ll have to bury is Yoon Kang’s. She knows that even if Yamamoto is sent back to Japan, Yoon Kang hasn’t finished his vendetta just yet. He’ll have to keep going until he’s completely finished off Choi Won Shin, which he promises won’t take long. Yeah okay, it’s only been three years and 15 episodes so far.

The Japanese legation predictably requests that the king release Yamamoto. They also want Yoon Kang arrested instead because Yoon Kang killed Japanese citizens. They choose to believe Yamamoto’s statement rather than the police’s claims that it was out of self-defense. VP Kim reminds Gojong that their relationship with the Japanese is still fragile. If the Japanese think he’s covering the crime up and protects Yoon Kang, then they will most certainly attack more forcefully.

Moon Il Do tells Yoon Kang to go hide himself, as Gojong is most certainly going to put out an order to arrest him. Yoon Kang is flabbergasted that the king would do what the Japanese say even though the Japanese are clearly twisting the situation and lying. He also can’t believe that the king is effectively siding with a man who stole food from the Joseon people; just whose king is he exactly? Il Do tries to reason with him, pointing out that a king can’t just take a civilian’s side when he has diplomatic affairs to attend to. It’s a valid point, but our hero is not going to accept it so easily.

Soo In visits the queen again and overhears a conversation that the queen has with Gojong. Queen Min wants the king to arrest Yoon Kang, and put him to death if necessary. They cannot risk the safety of their country – and themselves – over one man. Though conflicted it seems that Gojong will agree. This worries Soo In greatly, and she hurries to warn Yoon Kang.

However it’s too late. Before he can run off, Won Shin and his merchant soldiers have arrived to capture him. If Won Shin hands Yoon Kang over before the police get him, he’ll gain more favor within the court.

Yoon Kang tells Sang Chu to escape with Je Mi as soon as he can to the temple, and to take care of Yeon Ha. He then manages to hide in his secret basement with Soo In before Won Shin enters his room. Won Shin looks around carefully, checking the armoire’s contents. Sang Chu freaks out that there’s nothing to see there, which only raises Won Shin’s suspicions. He finds the secret door and slowly makes his way down the stairs with his men.

They’re too late. Yoon Kang and Soo In have already escaped through some loose boards in the walls. The merchant soldiers chase after Yoon Kang, but he and Soo In are already galloping far away. Won Shin has Yoon Kang’s portrait passed to all the other merchants to keep an eye out for him while the court police come running after Yoon Kang. He also visits Soo In’s home to see if she’s around, as she is the most likely person to hide him. Meanwhile Ho Kyung visits Kim Ok Gyun to have him find a way to protect Yoon Kang. Knowing how important Yoon Kang is to their cause, Kim Ok Gyun convinces Park Young Hyo to send men out to find him.

Yoon Kang and Soo In are unable to get very far by horse and eventually have to resort to running through the woods. Along the way Soo In loses her shoe, but they have no time to waste to get it especially with two groups of people wanting his head. Eventually night falls and they are able to lose their trackers hiding in the dark. Yoon Kang notices that Soo In’s foot is bleeding through her sock. She has a bad cut from falling earlier, and he uses his scarf to wrap her feet. He promises to bring her back home as soon as day breaks, but Soo In refuses to part with him ever.

The following morning, Yoon Kang wakes up early and searches for her missing shoe. Unfortunately he leaves her alone and in plain sight of the roving merchant soldiers. Soo In makes a run for it, leaving Yoon Kang to find an empty nest when he returns with her shoe. One of the merchant soldiers shoots at her and misses, but the gunshot alerts Won Shin and Yoon Kang of her location. Soo In falls and is stalked like pray by four merchant soldiers. They threaten to kill her if she doesn’t reveal where Yoon Kang is (although, truthfully she doesn’t know), but they’re killed first by Yoon Kang.

He returns her shoe and then bids her to go to the temple to meet with Je Mi and Yeon Ha. She’s afraid that this time they’ll truly be separated for life, but he promises that he’ll return to her. So while Yoon Kang deals with the merchant soldiers and leads them farther away into the forest, Soo In makes her way towards the temple, hiding from the court police every so often.

As Yoon Kang fights against the merchant soldiers, he jumps far too back and ends up falling over a ledge. He hits his head against a tree, and ends up knocked out below the ledge beneath the brush. Won Shin hurries to go capture him but by the time he gets there, Yoon Kang is gone. He’s already been picked up by someone else. Now he’s really going to make Soo In worried when he doesn’t show up at the temple.

Yoon Kang finally comes to and finds himself at a regional army camp in Gwangju headed by Park Young Hyo. Kim Ok Gyun arrives to explain how they saved him, and bids him to rest up as he has a mission for him.

Meanwhile VP Kim assures the queen that soldiers are searching for Yoon Kang, and with his arrest the Japanese will never make mention of the Yamamoto arrest ever again. He’s also handed Yamamoto over to the Japanese legation so he’s going to have to be deported for now. In exchange for the queen’s gratefulness, VP Kim hopes to have his son promoted to captain of the Byulgi Force, but the queen recommends he lead the Junyoung force and help protect the royals.

Hye Won goes to congratulate Ho Kyung on his promotion as a way to get to know him better and further tighten the bond between the Choi and Kim family. As they take a stroll, they bump into Ho Kyung’s old friends, who see him as a traitor to their cause. Sadly he can’t defend himself in front of Hye Won.

Soo In finally returns home, dismal at the thought that Yoon Kang might be dead since he hasn’t returned to the temple. Her mother is so angry and tired of the fact that Soo In is running off to dangerous places because of Yoon Kang that she decides to find her a suitable match immediately. Soo In protests but Jan Yi encourages her to see it from her mother’s point of view, that as a mother she must be tired of being sick with worry. Besides, having a man love her should be enough for any woman.

Like that is enough for Soo In. She meets with Ok Gyun again to see if she can still help the cause without being a court maid. He says that’s a no-go. He needs a court maid who can reach the sensitive, private areas of the palace and really find out what is going on in the king and queen’s heads. If they succeed, the world will most definitely change. With that, Soo In agrees to become a court maid. When her mother hears of this, she is so not pleased. She is going to lose another loved one to that palace full of intrigue and death. Ho Kyung is equally unhappy for her, and even more heartbroken when he realizes that she could bury her love for Yoon Kang but it will never mean she’ll love him. She’d choose being a court maid over marrying him.

The mission that Ok Gyun wants Yoon Kang to take on is to train Young Hyo’s army at Gwangju with the gun. They will then be formed into an elite group of soldiers who’ll lead the rebellion that will bring about a lot of change to Korea and eliminate slavery. Yoon Kang remembers his promise to Soo In of reuniting and living with her but at the same time he wants to see the change in Joseon happen. And for that, he chooses to stay and train the soldiers. But only after he goes to the capital and sees Soo In to tell her he’s alive.

In the world of other characters: Won Shin hears of this Gwangju army and wonders if Yoon Kang would be there. When VP Kim adds that Gwangju is where Young Hyo and the progressives meet, it gives him more reason to go over there and check it out. Moon Il Do is also assigned to a position of guarding the palace and wants Jung Hoon to go with him, but Jung Hoon isn’t too keen with serving a king who betrayed his best friend. Moon Il Do understands that the king might be feeling conflicted, and his motto has always been to follow orders so he’s going to go to the palace whether Jung Hoon comes or not.

Another romance is blooming between Je Mi and Sang Chu, who speak about how Sang Chu became a slave. His father had gambled him away, and that’s how he ended up with such a terrible fate. But there’s a silver lining – and the two make sweet love even though they’re surrounded by sleeping monks at the temple. HA!

Yeon Ha is the first to see her brother at the temple and it’s a happy reunion with Je Mi and Sang Chu as well. However Yoon Kang must now hurry to Soo In’s home before she becomes a court maid! He arrives in time to see her say goodbye to her mother (who refuses to see her). Even though she’s really happy to see him, Soo In will not stray off her chosen path. She’s doing this because she wants to walk the same path as he is in trying to effect some change in the world.

This time it’s her who’s telling him to wait a little longer, that they’re going to have to be separated a little longer. And this time she’s the one who’s promising that they’ll be together in a better world. Yay for Soo In finally doing something instead of just waiting for him forever!

Episode 20

Now that Soo In has gone to the palace, Yoon Kang is quick to find Kim Ok Gyun and accuse him of not listening to his words. Didn’t he say that Soo In was not to be involved in their plans? To Ok Gyun’s defense, he didn’t push her down that path. She chose it, and in the end she’s doing it for Yoon Kang too. If Yoon Kang wants her back, he’ll have to make sure the entire rebellion succeeds.

That’s messed up. But also true.

Yoon Kang returns to his ransacked store to find the runaway kid, Dong Yi, hiding out there. He survived thanks to the doctor, and now he wants to follow Yoon Kang around. He knows that Yoon Kang is the mythical dark gunman because he recognized his voice, and hopes that he will continue to save all the runaways and slaves. Well if this isn’t a blatant reminder as to why Yoon Kang must continue with the mission…

Soo In begins her life as a court maid. She sees Ho Kyung but chooses not to acknowledge him. However Jung Hoon spots her (after finally accepting a post under Moon Il Do as a palace guard) and she cannot deny him. He’s shocked to see her there, thinking that she would have been with Yoon Kang rather than give up her love for a life of chastity serving the queen. But she cannot tell him why she’s there, as she’s pulled away by the head court lady.

Sung Gil reports back to Won Shin and Hye Won: he did not see Yoon Kang at the camp. Well of course he didn’t, because Yoon Kang’s in the city too! They’re confused because they trusted the intel, but in any case at least Yoon Kang is in hiding. He can’t reveal himself without risking death anyways. Hye Won promises to keep looking for him while Won Shin focus on the government.

Dong Yi ends up following Yoon Kang all the way back to the camp as he believes that that is the only way he can better his life. Yoon Kang leaves him to help out with chores around the soldiers, and then commences his strategy meetings with Young Hyo and Ok Gyun. The progressives don’t want to overthrow the king, as the country isn’t ready for that yet. Instead they want to make him more of a figurehead while they hold all of the power. In order to do that, they will definitely have to take the palace by force and get rid of the likes of VP Kim and Won Shin.

In total, Young Hyo and Ok Gyun have a combined force of 1057 soldiers, which is formidable but not enough to take on the Qing soldiers stationed at the capital and the palace guards. As a result, Ok Gyun has sent word to the Japanese legation asking for help. Yoon Kang begs him not to do that. He believes that’s worse for everyone because if they succeed with Japan’s help, they’ll act like they own everything just like how the Qing are acting right now. Instead Yoon Kang encourages Ok Gyun to talk to people and enlist the help of the civilians. Ok Gyun thinks they’re all too preoccupied with figuring out where their next meal will come from, but Yoon Kang believes that no rebellion will succeed without the help of the people. Some food for thought there. Ok Gyun adds that Qing and France are also at odds over Vietnam, so if the situation worsens it’ll be the best time to attack the palace as the Qing will be too preoccupied.

Minister Min Young Ik is worried over the exact same thing. (This minister has totally ended up on the side of the conservatives instead of the progressives now.) He relays his fears to the queen, who is confident that their neighboring country won’t collapse even if they lose. Soo In listens to their conversation and is supposed to hand off the intel to another spy, Jung In Joo. However before she can even do that she bumps into Won Shin.

Both are surprised to see each other at the palace, and Won Shin is especially curious to know why she’s near the government buildings. Soo In is supposed to help out at the executive department every chance she gets, so Won Shin, suspicious of her, asks her to do a task for him. It’s a simple summary, but requires her to write. Soo In tries to close up her sleeve hiding the secret message to make it look like she’s protecting her sleeve from the ink, but Won Shin is smarter than that. He knows that she became a court maid to help Yoon Kang somehow. He may not know how exactly, but he’ll be watching her from here on out.

Ok Gyun finally receives Soo In’s message and is heartened to hear that 1500 of Qing’s 3000 troops in Joseon will pull out in 15 days to aid the war in Vietnam. They’ll need to prepare their attack for then. The bad news is that Won Shin now believes Soo In is going to start badmouthing about him to the queen. They’ll need to ruin Soo In’s reputation within the court somehow. In addition, Sung Gil has just confirmed a Yoon Kang-sighting at the Gwangju camp. The baddies are on to the good guys…

Even though the progressives plan to utilize Ho Kyung’s forces in their plan, and even though they may successfully occupy the palace, Yoon Kang points out that it’ll be difficult to defend the palace with only about 1000 soldiers. They’ll need to find a way to move the king to a smaller palace so they can defend it more easily, and they can’t do it by force. The king never leaves Changduk Palace anymore since the first rebellion involving the conservatives, so they’ll need to give him a reason to want to move to the smaller Gyungwoon Palace on his own.

Suddenly they get a visitor – it’s Won Shin! He forces his way inside Young Hyo’s office to find only Young Hyo and Ok Gyun; Yoon Kang managed to get himself behind a folded screen in time! However his tea cup is still out on the table so Won Shin suspects Young Hyo of aiding a criminal. Young Hyo immediately uses his status as a prince to put Won Shin back in his place: how dare a lowly merchant accuse him of such criminal activities?! Won Shin knows he doesn’t have enough clout with the royals to freely accuse the king’s favorite relative, so he backs off. But he still thinks the progressives are hiding something.

Ok Gyun returns to the palace and thanks Soo In for her hard work. When she hears of the plan to move the king to Gyungwoon Palace, she suggests using gunpowder to make a bomb. Making the king and queen think that their lives are being threatened would be enough to get them out of the palace. As long as she gets the gunpowder supplies, she can make the bomb for them. Interestingly Ok Gyun tells Ho Kyung to get the supplies and leave it in a back wall for their “person in the palace.” Ok Gyun purposely is not telling Ho Kyung or Soo In of each other’s roles in the rebellion!

When Ho Kyung makes his way to the drop-off location, he bumps into Won Shin and Hye Won visiting the palace. These freaking Chois are everywhere! He makes the excuse that he’s looking for his father and heads off. Hye Won then makes her way to the queen’s palace but when she sees VP Kim, she follows Ho Kyung to tell him of VP Kim’s location. Instead, she sees Soo In passing by and quickly hides. They’re such besties!

Soo In bumps into Ho Kyung right after he drops off the gunpowder, so the two of them still don’t know that they’re both fighting for the same cause. Hye Won witnesses their awkward exchange, in which Ho Kyung is a bit suspicious as to why Soo In would be in this particular area. Both of them make their excuses to each other, and Hye Won is now wary of Ho Kyung’s intentions.

Hye Won finally meets the queen and after all the niceties she advises the queen not to trust Soo In. She “suspects” that Soo In entered the palace to help Yoon Kang, who’s a wanted criminal. Soo In might hold a grudge against the king and queen, so Hye Won suggests that the queen test her loyalty in some way. The queen is smart, but sometimes I wish she trusted everyone less because now she’s allowing herself to be played by the wrong crowd.

Yoon Kang arrives at Changduk Palace for some reconnaissance work and bumps into his good friend Jung Hoon, who’s confused as to why he’s there and why Soo In is a court maid. Suddenly the king passes by in his nightly walk and Yoon Kang puts his head down. The king nearly recognizes him, and only because he’s called away he doesn’t get to confirm whether it’s really Yoon Kang.

Meanwhile, VP Kim, Minister Min, and Won Shin meet with the queen secretly to tell her about an upcoming rebellion that the progressives might be starting. Won Shin is highly suspicious of Young Hyo and the fact that he’s hiding Yoon Kang at Gwangju, and that Ok Gyun frequently visits the camp. They’ll need to get Young Hyo out of the Gwangju camp so that he won’t have any power over the army, and the only way to do so is to “promote” him to the head of the foreign affairs department. Of course Soo In hears all of this outside of the room.

The head court lady is suspicious of Soo In’s allegiances, so when Soo In leaves her post, she follows along with two other soldiers. Thankfully Yoon Kang is still around to pull her into the safety of darkness. The two reunite briefly with a warm embrace and a reaffirmation of their promise to put their lives in danger for a future together. Honestly, I’m kind of tired of this oft-repeated refrain. I get it. You love each other. Stop reminding me every episode.

Outside of palace walls, Je Mi reveals that she’s pregnant with Sang Chu’s baby! Wow these two! Je Mi is so embarrassed to be pregnant, still unmarried, and living with monks. HAHAHAHA. The only problem is that the baby will be born a slave because its parents are. Hopefully this new world can arrive sooner than the child.

Yoon Kang returns to Gwangju with bad news. Based on Soo In’s intel, the conservatives and the queen know about their plans so starting the next day, they’re going to begin a counterattack to all the progressives’ plans. And sure enough, the king goes along with VP Kim’s recommendations to appoint Young Hyo as head of foreign affairs and bring the Gwangju troops to the Chin Force. The king never heard of these plans prior to VP Kim’s suggestions at court, mind you, which just goes to show how well the conservatives can manipulate Gojong and how reliant the king is on the conservatives.

Won Shin, Minister Min, and VP Kim celebrate their current success, but it’s not a complete win yet. After all, the Gwangju troops are only going to be under Ho Kyung’s command. Tiny win for the progressives?

Nevertheless, Ok Gyun wants to accelerate their plans for the rebellion as they have less time to prepare with the royals aware of their every move. They need to get all of the conservatives in one place and get rid of them all in order to prevent any further opposition. One of the progressives suggests the day when a new department opens. A new post office department will celebrate its opening in three days’ time, and all the officials from court will be present without the king around. It is a hasty plan, but Ok Gyun believes they need to act now rather than later.

Yoon Kang visits his sister once again with Dong Yi in tow. He’ll be leaving the young boy in Yeon Ha’s care, which makes her sense that something is going to go terribly wrong. Sang Chu also wishes he could be with Yoon Kang for this fight, but Yoon Kang won’t let him leave his new family alone. Aww…

Ok Gyun receives confirmation from the Japanese envoy Takejo that the Japanese troops will aid the rebellion. He only shares the news with Young Hyo, deeming it unwise to tell anti-Japanese-Yoon Kang at the moment. That evening, a fellow court lady sneaks into Soo In’s room and rifles through her drawers, thinking that Soo In is asleep. When she leaves, Soo In peeks through her open door and sees the court lady reporting nothing amiss to Hye Won. Dang this woman is resourceful! As soon as the coast is clear Soo In checks her drawers. All the way in the back is the packet for the gunpowder, still safely hidden.

Won Shin is excited that he too has been invited to the opening of the post office. He and his daughter celebrate their new important standing as “true friends” of the monarchy, which is ridiculous for me because just 19 episodes ago he was part of the group that was trying to oust Gojong and make him a puppet king too.

Finally it’s the day of the rebellion. As the court ladies help prepare for the grand opening of the department, Soo In sneaks away to prepare the bomb. Yoon Kang is tasked with leading a group of gunmen, and Ho Kyung receives a message to move all of the troops to Gyungwoon Palace to begin setting up the defense. Ho Kyung realizes that the progressives mean to attack during the post office party, where his father will be, and chooses to go save his father rather than follow his troops to Gyungwoon.

Evening falls. The party begins with many foreign envoys present. Yoon Kang leads his men to the outside of the department building and sets up bales of hay with fuel spilled on it. The men light it up with their torches, and a fire starts right outside the party. Ok Gyun and Young Hyo make their exit (far too early and calmly in my opinion), attracting Minister Min’s attention.

And now, the Gapsin Coup has begun.

Comments:

The last four episodes get tricky because of a lot of historical events coming to play. I definitely suggest reading up on Gojong and Gapsin Coup – even on Wikipedia – to just get a fuller understanding of what is going on. (I certainly needed it, as this drama assumes it has a Korean audience who knows Korean history.)

In any case, within the realm of the drama’s world, the historical events are really eclipsing Yoon Kang’s original story arc. After watching these episodes, digesting them, and really thinking about it, I must admit that the writer at least made Yoon Kang a consistent character whose experiences really help inform and justify the actions he makes in these episodes. It’s understandable why he’s anti-Japanese – he’s seen what happens in a small form with Yamamoto and the trade agreements – and it’s understandable why he wants a new Korea free of social classes. Through Soo In’s eyes and his own in seeing the plight of the slaves he’s become more aware and more driven to help the poor. His story is fully integrated with the historical aspect of the drama, and I appreciate that. I’m not sure if it was totally necessary to make the last six episodes especially full of historical events, as the events of the first fourteen episodes could have happened independently and somewhat fictionally during Gojong’s reign. But it certainly has enriched the drama by placing it during a time of great change for Joseon.

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