Writer: Ju Ae Ryung
Editors: Val Kaye Taozen and Tabby
Picture Credits: SBS
The thoroughly enjoyable Episode 10 begins where we left off—Dae Gil meets Jin Ki, the adversary of his master Kim Chae Gun.
This episode develops the post-assassination attempt on the King’s life, Dam Seo’s escape from the palace guards, and the final stage of training and growth of Dae Gil with his master Kim Chae Gun. We also begin to see some cracks appearing in Yi In Jwa’s grand plan to capture the throne.
Among my favorite scenes are Dae Gil and Prince Yeoning’s little banter and exchange in the woods after rescuing Dam Seo. Yeoning tries to be haughty prince, and Dae Gil, totally unruffled by the Prince’s royal status, treats him as a younger friend and jokes with him. I enjoy that Dae Gil, despite all the challenges he endures, still exhibits a glimpse of the happy, carefree boy that he was, making us viewers smile at his cajoling or silly jokes.
I also enjoy the King’s performance when he had Dam Seo captured, and proceeds to tell her the truth about her father’s death. He is regal and splendid, to say the least, and dramatically shot.
Not least of my favorite scenes are those of Dae Gil with his master Kim Chae Gun. It is moving to see that the two have developed a respect and love for each other, almost like a father-son relationship, both caring deeply for the other, although not always expressed in words. The time and effort put into training the young and impetuous Dae Gil, now a mature young man of great skill and strong character, finally pays off. Dae Gil completes all the challenges set to him by Chae Gun, and it’s time for him to leave and strike out on his own. The goodbye scene touches a chord thanks to the great acting of Jang Keun Suk. He is at his very best when allowed to fully emote and play out his character’s feelings and situation, then his talent shines through for all to see and admire.
The white mask he wears towards the end of the episode, and the cheeky smile coming through behind the mask, is so Dae Gil, and also Jang Keun Suk, bravo!
Dae Gil, while escaping from the palace guards on the night of the assassination attempt, runs right into Jin Ki, who was once a close associate of his master Kim Chae Gun. Jin Ki confronts him regarding the prized sword and demands to know where he got it (the King himself). Then it dawns on him that this is the ‘kid’ Chae Gun took in. He attacks Dae Gil, knocking him to the ground, but just in the nick of time, like a good master, Chae Gun arrives and saves him. He tells Dae Gil to leave, and in a nice parting shot at Jin Ki, Dae Gil tells him, “Get out of this alive, so I can fight you one day”.
The sword fight between Jin Ki and Chae Gun is cut short at the arrival of palace guards, but not before Chae Gun draws blood. They agree to take this up another day.
Meanwhile, the all-conniving and scheming Yi In Jwa asks Hong Mae to take a black garment and meet with Ghost of Six (or Yook Gwi Shin).
After escaping on horseback from the palace, Prince Yeoning takes Dam Seo into the safety of the woods. Unconscious, she murmurs the name of Baek Dae Gil. The Prince notices and seems a little disconcerted but proceeds to stoke the fire he builds. Dam Seo wakes and wishes to leave, but the Prince persuades her to tarry a little, for the warmth of the fire, and also to tend to her wound. Dam Seo is confused at Prince Yeoning’s care for her, stating that they are enemies and that she cannot receive his help. She advises him “not to do it, whatever it is he is going to do.” He assures her he’s only going to look for herbs to help her wound. He walks off leaving her to rest and sees Dae Gil approaching, who hands him a string of water jade leaves for Dam Seo’s wound. The Prince realizes the trouble Dae Gil went to and sulkily tells Dae Gil to give it to her himself. Dae Gil reads his emotions, and asks, “Why, is your pride wounded?” The two brothers (their relationship still unknown to them) bicker as Yeoning complains that Dae Gil always talks like he is younger (when he is Prince!). Dae Gil retorts that the Prince is indeed younger, not to mention, he has no friends. Dae Gil offers to be his friend, but the Prince, in a pompous tone, announces that a prince of his stature does not need a friend like him! Banter over, Dae Gil turns away and in a serious tone, tells Yeoning to look after Dam Seo, adding that he is too busy to do so. He turns to leave so his emotions can be hidden from view, as both of them care very much for the girl.
Yeoning returns to Dam Seo to pound the herbs and dress her wound. He tells her to close her eyes and count to 100 and it’ll be done. By 67, he stops her, teasing that it was long done and she must have enjoyed his touch. She tells him to stop! He replies that he wishes he could stop and the only way would be to die. He then asks her to kill him to which she says, “Don’t think I can’t do it.” She takes out her dagger and moves to plunge it into his heart but stops, unable to do it. “You cannot kill either,” he says and holds her close to comfort her as tears stream down her face. Unknown to them, Dae Gil sees this from a distance. He is pained, but also resigned, after what he had told the Prince. As he leaves, the Prince and Dam Seo drift to sleep, his arms protectively about her.
In the morning, Prince Yeoning wakes in the woods alone to find Dam Seo gone. She left a note for him saying, “It warmed me, but I do not deserve this. Please forget it all, this is my request,” referring to his care and love for her.
As Dam Seo walks on alone in the woods, the King’s two eunuchs approach and take her away. They take her blindfolded to an unknown place, where her blindfold is removed. She comes face-to-face with none other than the King. He reassures her he is not there to take her life. He, instead, asks if she has ever really opened her eyes and seen the truth? He urges her to open her eyes and proceeds to tell her that this is place where he last saw her father, Yi Soo, alive. The person she trusts and serves, Yi In Jwa, a lunatic with wild ambition, is her father's real killer. Dam Seo visibly shakes while hearing this information. The King assures her “a King doesn’t lie” and that it's time to stop being In Jwa's puppet, to open her eyes. Leaving the palace, Dam Seo sees Prince Yeoning striding across the palace courtyard although he doesn’t see her.
In the King’s private chambers, Prince Yeoning readies himself to accept whatever punishment the King metes out to him, as he has failed in capturing the assassin. The King tells him the assassin has been captured and killed. He then asks the Prince pointedly where he had been all night, knowing full well he was with Dam Seo.
We then cut to a forward-flash scene of the Prince running to check on the body of the captured assassin. He sees that she has been knife branded with the Ghost of Six on the arm. The scene returns to the present time as the King tells Yeoning he has given Yi In Jwa a present, and that he should forget about Dam Seo. Prince Yeoning suddenly realizes the King knows all.
Yi In Jwa, Jin Ki and Moo Myung are having a chat when Dam Seo walks in, pale but calm. Once she and Yi In Jwa are alone, he takes out an arrow with no point and shows it to her. Using a dud arrow in the duel as proof, he explains that her father ‘chose’ to die that day. Dam Seo is not having any of that. She tells her master she no longer serves him, bows her respect, and leaves. Upset and angry, Yi In Jwa breaks the arrow with a howl, “the King,” realizing he lost this battle as well as his long-groomed disciple, a main pawn in his grand plan. Dam Seo, in the meantime, takes her leave of Moo Myung and Jin Ki, who gives her a carved statue of Buddha. Moo Myung demands to know if Dam Seo was the sacrifice In Jwa was willing to make for the King’s life. But now with the King still alive, and Dam Seo gone, he has lost. In Jwa, unyielding, replies that Dam Seo will learn that in the world there are no eternal friends or enemies.
Moving back to matters in the Palace, a gathering of high-level ministers of the court, including Minister Kim Chang Jib of the Noron faction, offers Prince Yeoning their support. This comes after seeing Prince Yeoning’s handle the assassination attempt as well as the King’s seeming preference over Crown Prince Yoon.
As Minister Kim Chang Jib settles into his abode, the merchants bring him gifts. Minister Kim, well aware that this is their way of bribing him, tells them to take the gifts back. With the support of the court now behind Prince Yeoning, the merchants of the city follow suit and change camps from Yi In Jwa and the Crown Prince. Word gets around quickly, forcing Yi In Jwa to make his next move. He invites himself to the merchants’ gathering at a gyobang and tells them he knows of their plan to support the Noron camp and Prince Yeoning. He reminds them that they are prosperous and live good lives due to his help and generosity and that they still owe him. The Chief Merchant, not cowed by the threats, tells In Jwa in no uncertain terms that they will support Prince Yeoning and not the ailing Crown Prince. In Jwa angrily bangs the table with his fist. As the Chief Merchant tries to leave, In Jwa’s aide stabs him. In Jwa gives the final fatal knife thrust.
Prince Yeoning’s guard informs him of the disappearance of the Chief Merchant whereupon he proceeds with his men to the gyobang to investigate. He pieces together what might have happened, even finding bloodstains on the floor. He rushes to the King to ask permission to investigate this murder, but the King adamantly refuses, saying the Prince should not take this matter up as his duties lie with Internal Inspection. The King explains he is well aware of the current court sentiments, towards both princes, and how this plays out with the merchants.
Meanwhile, Dae Gil is back in the forest chopping wood, having flashbacks of his conversations and time with Dam Seo. It hangs heavy on his heart. He takes out his emotions and frustration on the wood he chops while his master watches. The seasons pass (beautifully filmed to show the passage of time), and a year later, we see a mature and skilled Dae Gil in the final stage of training with his master. He now ably swings his sword and cuts a falling petal into two. He now shoots his arrow straight into the center of a nyang and nails it. And his sensory skills are now so sharp he can stop flying arrows with his sword, and even catch an arrow with his bare hand, inches from his face. All this in one of the most picturesque scenes in the drama so far, complete with cherry blossoms, green woods and a stunning waterfall—beautiful cinematography.
As they sit together for a meal, Chae Gun tells Dae Gil that he took him on because he reminds him of someone he knew long ago, when they were Dae Gil’s age – a tiger of tigers, a king of the mountains. Dae Gil jokes that the person must have been a great and handsome man, and that he will be like him.
Chae Gun, then, surprises Dae Gil by suggesting that he has outgrown this place. It is time for him to leave. In a very moving scene, with tears streaming down his face, Dae Gil bows in deep respect and, dare I say, love to Chae Gun saying thank you and goodbye. He promises he will never forget his master and he will serve him with his very life. Chae Gun, fighting back tears, tells Dae Gil not to forget his meals, not to get into fights, and to watch out for swords. He also tells him grown men should not cry, even though they are both crying.
Yi In Jwa, meantime, tries to consult the fortune teller on what she can see, but she replies that she cannot see or foretell anything: the energy of Dae Gil is too powerful—Dae Gil is now like In Jwa in that regard.
Towards the end of the episode, Yi In Jwa instructs Hong Mae to gather three people for him namely – the infamous Hwanghae Cutter, Golsa the forger, and Ghost of Six. All three are gamblers who stop at nothing. They are each introduced with scenes of how they use their skills and mean bullying tactics into cheating people of their money and belongings. (The Gang of Bad is how I see them!) In Jwa begins briefing them. There is a white-masked gambler going around the eight cities’ gambling dens and wiping out 30% of the dens, winning and taking the earnings of the dens. He has to be stopped. In Jwa also mentions Baek Man Geum, whom the motley crew remembers, and that this gambler is none other than his son. As In Jwa speaks, White Mask arrives in Hanyang and comes to the very den and place where they are.
Simultaneously, the White Mask also arrives at another den, this time seeking out an old man. However, when his mask is removed, it is not Dae Gil, but Prince Yeoning. He tells the old man that he seeks to destroy Yi In Jwa, aka the scholar Baek Myun.
Back with In Jwa, the motley crew meets Dae Gil face-to-face. He and In Jwa exchange threats with In Jwa asking tauntingly, “Are you a tiger now?” Dae Gil confidently and impudently replies, “I’m not an animal. I’m a human being…I will cut off your limbs one by one, and finally I will have your head.” The episode ends with In Jwa laughing evilly.
Meanwhile, we wait in suspense to see what happens next, as we approach the middle of the drama series.
It was interesting to see how in those days too, Court and Palace matters impacted the commercial and economic sectors. The favor of the King toward Prince Yeoning leads to the shift of the Noron faction to him from Crown Prince and the merchants aligning their support.
It’s also intriguing for me to see both Prince Yeoning and Dae Gil simultaneously don the White Mask in their common pursuit of Yi In Jwa's destruction. Why? How? It’s left to be seen in the coming episodes, so keep watching! Daebak!