Iljimae Episode 20, recap
Darlings! He’s not dead!
I know it’s confusing, but I’ll give you my take on it… but first I’d like to thank everyone who’s been diligently following the recaps and the drama, there are too many of you to name, but do know that I appreciate your feedback, encouragement and capslocked comments.
And sorry if this wasn’t as early as usual, there was a slight delay in csub release… and torrenting sucked more than usual…
I think an appropriate song for this episode would be Homecoming, by Vienna Teng. Especially that one phrase, when she says, ‘We all have our own endings, and we all have our own scars…” Anyway, on with the recap.
Episode 20, finale
The king comes back – as he remembers Yong as the one who came to voice the people’s complaints. The king comments that the look in his eyes is memorable, but wonders why he is here. Yong makes something up about building up a Korea that takes care of its people, and that he’s a guard because he wanted to contribute. He also adds that there weren’t enough people to help out at the banquet, so the extra guards are doing what they can. He tells the king his ‘real’ name (he made something up) and gets away with it.
The mafia dude and the hunter’s son tell him to do his stuff. They can take care of moving the stuff out.
Shi Hoo stares at the men to be shipped off and knows that Iljimae will come here for sure, however, he is called away. The guards for the men are tricked away by Yong in a palace soldier costume and the captured men make a successful escape. Shi Hoo runs back but is too late.
Iljimae continues searching through the different palace buildings while the captives dig at a particular spot in the palace. Escape tunnels ftw. Lol. The men’s directions come from Daeshi’s favourite wooden mask, which has instructions from Iljimae written on the inner side.
Shi Hoo studies maps of the palace and discovers a lotus pond in one of the older versions – he’s certain that Iljimae is using this as an escape tunnel starting place. We also have shots of Yong expositing to his men in the lair about the different locations to dig from. Shi Hoo gets smart and tells Shi Wan and his people to wait in a certain area, as there will be diggers there. Yup, the diggers are the gangsters from some time ago.
Shi Wan orders three of his men to guard the diggers while the rest follow him down into the tunnel. Meanwhile, Daeshi is urging his fellow captives on, deep in the tunnel. Shi Hoo follows the tunnel from inside, and realizes that Iljimae had people digging at different spots.
Outside, the three remaining guards are tossed into the tunnel by Shim Deok, the shoemaker’s dad and Eun Chae’s servant’s dad. The captives come out of another one entirely. There is a joyful reunion.
Shi Wan and co. are stuck walking inside a sewage tunnel while Shi Hoo gets the right tunnel, but again a step too late to be of any use.
Ahaha. Iljimae leads the hunter’s son, the shoemaker and mafia dude into the royal treasury, where they take charge of stuffing all the valuables into sacks for transport. The hunter’s son goes for the big stuff while the other two just stick jewelry into any available sack. (The shoemaker’s still in his palace uniform, huh.) Anyway, Iljimae sets a timed bunch of what looks like dynamite in the treasure house, so that they explode right when the gala banquet starts.
Of course they can’t carry around sacks of treasure, even as palace personnel there are limits, but they tie the bags to lotus lanterns that float on the surface so it can be retrieved later via the bridge we saw last episode.
The shoemaker goes back to work while the two outsiders work on getting back out of the palace.
We get a shot of the outside of the palace – many anxious people awaiting Iljimae’s appearance, as well as those intimately connected with Yong, like his birth mother and Dani. The two mothers are super worried. Dani, in particular, looks like she’s about to have a heart attack any time soon.
Inside, a furious (and foul-smelling) Shi Wan stomps around. He sees mafia dude and the hunter’s son, still in their palace uniforms, taking a cart somewhere. He inspects it, but there’s nothing but old burlap bags on the cart. He lets them go.
Meanwhile, the king reflects on the young man he met. Then a frantic noble shows up (it’s the one who blackmailed him earlier, what a shrill voice, and not only shrill, but also constipated) all flustered about the missing conscripts. The king reassures him that he has the situation in hand, only to be forced to stamp an agreement to let the Ming revivalists use Korea as a military base. (Hm. I wonder who has military bases in Korea now.)
King’s not happy, and he’s probably going to do something about it. In the meantime, he can party! But the banquet is not at all festive, and even the music and dancing sound pretty flat.
On Jeju island, Eun Chae is enjoying playtime with little kids while her father fumes at not being able to fish anything. Byun Shik grumbles about being still here, and looks over at his daughter – he is resigned to her forever helping the poor, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. A servant brings news of Iljimae’s latest doings, and Byun Shik gleefully cheers him on as a sort of petty vengeance against the king for demoting him. However, he forbids all mentions of Iljimae in front of Eun Chae.
The bombs set inside the palace explode, creating mass panic. The king is shepherded to a safe spot after his tents collapse while the constipated voice noble gets his paper stolen. I love the scene when a giant white sheet unrolls to show the trademark sprig of red plum blossoms in front of the main palace.
Take that, king.
Mafia dude and the hunter’s son take advantage of the ensuing chaos to get their goods out of the palace. However, Shi Wan recognizes the mafia dude (also cowardly and does not want to face the potential of confronting Iljimae while guarding the king, I bet) and stops them. Fortunately, mafia dude’s underlings come dressed up as soldiers and fool Shi Wan into letting them run towards more guards. When these guards actually escort the mafia dude out, Shi Wan gives chase, only to be held back at the palace gate by lit coal-lobbing peasants.
Night has fallen, and the king puzzles out what Iljimae’s actually searching for (he’s hit all the symbol marked palace buildings save one and is working on it as they speak)…
Kyumi’s mother notices Dani asking after Yong frantically, but goes back to holding her anxious vigil – not sure if she knows who her son is, but surely even she knows that he couldn’t have been a Manchurian envoy.
Shi Hoo does recon at the bombed palace building and notices a bell engraved with a tattoo of one of the dead men. He starts to suspect something.
Meanwhile, Iljimae is having trouble with the lock to the last palace. It requires four keys, but he only has three (the last key is in the king’s hands, and it’s also the only copy). The last building has important files from the time of the rebellion and something else too… anyway, the king sends his soldiers there to guard against Iljimae entering.
Aww, while Yong is panicking at not being able to pick the lock, Swe Dol’s spirit appears and tells him to cool down and open the lock. He does so just in time to avoid the assassin dude.
Meanwhile, constipated noble demands to see the king but is taken to the assassin. He isn’t allowed to see the king and gets angry, insulting the assassin that he was just a peasant when the king took him in (thus he serves the king so loyally?) he also shouts that the assassin better not think he is the king just because he gets preferential treatment. Anyway, the noble gets super fussy and annoyed and decides to hand over the document incriminating the king in Lee Won Ho’s death to the chief investigator of the state.
The assassin gets up and kills him from behind. Shi Hoo witnesses this, as well as where he stored the incriminating document.
Iljimae gets to the chamber of secrets (har har, sorry) and notices an infrared-like criss-cross of fine threads across the floors. He gets his nifty crossbow out and decides to climb through the chamber on a rope. This works really well until Iljimae notices a really large painting of the king. He stops.
Cut to Shi Hoo sneaking in and reading the document – really just words written in blood, on a paper. He reads it and finds out the truth of the matter – that the king had Lee Won Ho killed and then framed as a traitor. He remembers the noble father and son duo who saved him when he was a child. (Yay for worldview shifts!)
At the same time, his half brother stares at the overlarge portrait of the king in shock as he sees the symbol of his father’s killer on the king’s sword. Yong realizes that his target is the teddybear king. (Still probably doesn’t realize he’s royal blood, but okay.) He’s immobilized by shock for a moment.
Shi Hoo, done with the document, picks up something else that looks familiar, and it’s the evidence he planted so many years ago – and he fully realizes his own role in his father’s death.
I like the rather obvious juxtaposition as both brothers finally get to the same point in their investigations.
The king is still wondering why Iljimae’s gone after the areas he has, and he finally realizes that Yong’s gaze is the same as Lee Won Ho’s, especially when they talk about the people of Korea. He gives an order for them to capture Lee Kyum, and staggers around being crazy.
People shoot arrows at the rapidly advancing Iljimae, but the roof is awfully far and he’s unharmed. Shi Hoo comes out to the courtyard and sees the king fleeing somewhere. Iljimae comes off from the roof to get to where he thinks the king is, kicking aside all opposition, but the king’s already fled to his underground bunker.
He comes out, only to be confronted with a bazillion more guards. Shi Hoo comes upon the scene, and takes a moment to rip his clothes (minds out of gutter, thank you) to write a message with his own blood for Kyum. Then he jumps into the fray, pretending to be fighting Iljimae, but only passing on a message. (Who the heck is in charge of choreographing the fight? It looks like drunken gymnastics.) Yong knows he can’t kill Shi Hoo, but they’re about the same level of skill, and getting tangled here would be bad.
But! Shi Hoo gets Iljimae tangled somewhere far away (relatively speaking) from the other soldiers and tells him that he is also Lee Won Ho’s son. (Yay!) He hands Yong the message then leaps back to fight the oncoming soldiers. And unlike Kyum, he’s totally okay with killing the opponent.
The slip of fabric tells him that the king is in the vault Iljimae broke into last. He goes to search, but drops his father’s lockpick on the network of strings tied to bells. Four soldiers come out and fight him, but he dispatches them in a few seconds. Lucky for him, both assassins have been called away to meet Kunghe.
The assassin dude is like, I was going to kill you anyway, but thanks for coming here on your own. The unarmed Kunghe has only one request – and that is for them to spare Iljimae, but instead the assassin brings the king into the conversation, and mentions betrayal etc. Kunghe says:
Betray our heaven? Do you still think of him as your heaven? That serving him would be to serve the great purpose of your life? Remember for what purpose we first followed him? Gwanghaegun, who killed his own mother and brothers to get the throne, was not fit for it. But he has killed his own brother and good friends, and even his own son, to preserve his seat on the throne.
The assassin replies:
To admit that he has made those mistakes, that would make me, who served him all my life, be only a killing demon. So I must believe that he is still the sky, and that serving him is to serve a great purpose. I will use all my forces to protect the king.
He leave, with an order to the second assassin to kill Kunghe. Kunghe is a much better fighter, of course, and wrenches his weapon out of his hands – and he also doesn’t kill his opponent.
We switch shots to see Bong Soon walking into the lair on crutches (see, she was alive). She is, I think, wearing a wig, because even allowing for summer weather, there is no way her hair is that messy and big naturally. Anyway, she reaches out to touch Iljimae’s armour (this must be the night before, as Iljimae is wearing his armour right now). She talks to the armour, asking Yong to come back safely and take her away somewhere.
Flashback to Yong looking up from a map of the palace, alone, as he notices the armour. He clutches a sleeve gratefully and murmurs to himself that Bong Soon is alive.
In the underground place, the king has gone more than little bit crazy from fear. He turns around to see Iljimae enter.
King: Who are you, that you dare to enter even this place? The ignorant call you a king and you believe them?
He draws out his sword and waves it at him. Honestly, it would have been better for him to not have done that, because that just makes Iljimae angry, seeing the symbol on the sword and confirming that he is indeed his father’s murderer. (And I love LJK as much as the next fan, but the Darth Vadar voice of doom has to stop. The heavy breathing too.)
Iljimae: Why did you kill my father? Why?
King: I should have killed you too. The sun in the sky wasn’t Won Ho, it was you. Because of you, my innocent little brother was killed.
Iljimae: Little brother? What little brother? Then… Why did you kill him? Why did you kill my father?
King: To keep my throne, I am willing to do worse than that.
Iljimae: So you were willing to kill your son, and countless innocents?!
King: Be it a little brother or a son, as soon as they threaten my throne, I will kill them. And that includes you!
The king lifts the sword and intends to chop Iljimae, but um, really bad fighting skills.
Iljimae: What kind of king are you? People don’t need a king like you. Prepare to die!
(It sounds corny, but is much better delivered onscreen.)
Anyway, we switch scenes to Kunghe fighting with assassin 2. Kunghe beats him, but doesn’t not kill him, instead pushing his spear into the ground (and this sort of marks another parallel scene in the episode, where teacher and student are both struggling with some issues).
Iljimae holds the king hostage with his own sword and goes out, intending to take him to the plum tree and make him apologize to his father’s spirit. No one dares to hurt him, as he is holding the king. Then, Mr. Assassin comes out of the crowd.
Outside, the anxious people are narrating his every move. One person predicts that he will die, surrounded as he is by imperial soldiers. On hearing this, Dani cries out for Yong. Kyum’s mother decides to approach her but faints before she can. Dani cradles the semi-conscious woman and hears her murmur “Kyumi” under her breath. She understands who this is.
As Iljimae stands thronged by swords, Shi Hoo leaps out of nowhere and comes to his exposed side. He looks his brother in the eye and they acknowledge each other. The assassin looks shocked. Kunghe leaps out of nowhere, on his other side, and tells him to finish what he began. The assassin looks astounded.
Then he gives the order for them to attack.
Kunghe and Shi Hoo take care of the imperial soldiers while Yong drags the king away. Shi Hoo is awesome, and Kunghe takes down everyone with a branch. The assassin takes a moment to slip past the two and follow Iljimae.
Iljimae shoves the king in a kneeling (hands and knees) position at the base of the plum tree. The king apologizes to his brother’s spirit, and agrees to overturn the charges of treason against Lee Won Ho and his family. Iljimae also tells him to apologize to the innocent peasants he killed, but I think the king’s reason’s gone already, as he’s mumbling to himself.
Iljimae: I have two fathers. One who taught me the meaning of right, and one who only stupidly cherished me, and sacrificed himself. But what kind of father are you? To your own son, and to your own people?! You don’t deserve any priviledges. Give up your throne right now!
The king is silent on this.
Iljimae: Swear that you will!
King: Alright, I will.
Iljimae: If you do not keep your oath, I will come and steal from you again.
King: But why won’t you just kill me? (Uh, don’t tempt him, you … you thing.)
He plunges the sword into the ground and tells the king to go. As if he doesn’t believe it himself, the king gets up and staggers away slowly, murmuring ‘Won Ho’ periodically. (I’d say this was a symptom of being clinically insane, but I’m not qualified to say that yet.)
Ginkgo Hillside plays
Kyum falls to the ground, and says to his father: I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t kill him in the end. I did the right thing, father, right?
The assassin comes from behind and attacks him for humiliating his ‘heaven’. A very exciting fighting scene follows, in which the assassin wrenches Iljimae’s sword from him, but Iljimae returns the favour. He holds the sword to the assassin’s neck, but throws it away at the last second. (My god, didn’t you learn from the first time you did that?)
The assassin picks up Iljimae’s sword lying on the ground and slashes him in the back. He falls. The assassin looks at Iljimae lying on the ground, almost not believing it, and we switch scenes to idyllic Jeju.
Flower’s Message plays
Eun Chae stares off into the ocean, wearing a plain hanbok. Bong Soon looks at the lantern Yong made for her, still in the night before all this. (Chronology’s a bit messed up.)
We switch scenes again, to the assassin walking along the walls of Lee Won Ho’s house, when a blood-covered Shi Hoo comes up suddenly and slits his throat.
Shi Hoo: You taught me to kill the person standing in my path, be he a buddha or a friend. I am also Lee Won Ho’s son.
(Fangirls can swoon now.)
Kyum lies on the ground of the plum orchard, hallucinating and remembering his two fathers. His eyes stay open as the plum petals fall on him. Fade out.
4 years later.
At a bookseller’s, which barely covers its porn distribution (Lol, titles include The King and the Woman, and Love Between Dog and Wolf. A reference? Methinks so.) is a small child, much like Yong in appearance and action. The stallowner tries to chase him away.
The kid is five years old, tall because he’s like his mother, and he’s missing a tooth because he’s like his dad. (Um, I get the cute value, but genetics doesn’t work that way.) Lol, he gets chased off.
He bumps into Bong Soon, dressed as a disheveled boy, running away, and she asks him who he is.
“I’m Namyon’s beloved baby boy! … Ketong.” (Ketong means dog poo, and was the name Swe Dol had initially wanted to give Yong.) Anyway, he goes on to say that his dad thought it was cool, and blames him for ruining his image in the eyes of everyone who hears his real name. Then he runs to his mommy.
She turns around to see Dani and Kyum’s mother, who must have raised him together. Anyway, there’s an awkward hello and goodbye scene, with both sides assuring the other that everyone’s well.
Switch to Eun Chae looking at her guest house nostalgically, having been in Jeju these past four years… or not? Her servant runs up and blames her for not sending any news this past four years. She is married to mafia dude and their baby daugher is named after Kyum’s sister, Yeon. Eun Chae compliments them on the baby, but her servant grumbles that it’s the name of his first love, but he won’t say who…
Eun Chae asks after ‘that child’ and they both look super awkward. They reassure her that he’s doing well and usher her in. She remembers Shi Hoo, and he’s doing well too.
In fact, the guy has gone off and started a martial arts school. I love that he’s training girls alongside the boys. LOVE. The only remaining assassin urges him to go back to working in the palace, as no one saw what happened that day (given, anyone who saw is probably dead by Shi Hoo’s hand). Shi Hoo demurs, as he wants to stay here and teach the children. He likes it better, and he also won’t give up the proof that Lee Won Ho was innocent. To him, doing this will allow him to protect the people his younger brother wanted to protect.
Eun Chae is back at the tree, looking at the blossoms. As she turns to leave, she hears the warbler singing. She remembers both little Kyum telling her the story and Yong telling her that even if ‘that child’ was dead, he would be happy.
Ketong, meanwhile, is watching Daeshi’s performance troupe. A mysterious dude in black leaps around on the rope (dude, harking back to King and the Clown days?) Daeshi and his father narrate, with Daeshi saying the famous words, “There’s nothing in this world I can’t steal, because I’m Iljimae!”
A bystander comes and tells them that the night before, some important official’s home was robbed, and in the exact style Iljimae used four years ago. Daeshi and Shim Deok look silent, while Eun Chae’s servant’s father protests that it’s all different. When the bystander scoffs, they bring up the matter that he was deported to China or dead – one rumour per person. (LOL. So he’s not dead, see? They’re trying to cover it up so they don’t start off a giant manhunt again.)
Ketong comes in the middle of their little crowd and mixes everything up like his father did with the previous set of rumours, but he confuses it too, grumbling about never having this memorized properly, and ruffling his hair, goes off. The adults look tense.
Mr. Shoemaker has gone back to his trade amongst the commoners, and is delivering shoes to a far distant shore, where Kunghe is living. Kunghe is annoyed that he’s so late, but the shoemaker only adds that telling him to deliver the shoes to someplace so far is considered harassment. He also delivers a threat from Shim Deok that if he stays out here and calls that prostitute out one more time, she will move her alehouse to the island to keep an eye on him.
Inside the package, there are two pairs of shoes. Kunghe picks them up (and litters) and shouts out for ‘that girl’. (Note: The translations say ‘that girl’, but many people who understand Korean have said that it’s more accurately interpreted ‘that rascal’, especially in light of what the PD has revealed about the ending. Also, ‘that rascal’ is a habitual nickname for Yong that Kunghe uses in the earlier episodes.)
The shoemaker’s father is making a living telling stories. Ketong appears, and annoys the old man by stealing his story away from him. He tells the true story of Iljimae’s return – from the mouth of babes shall you hear the truth and all that – and the king’s completely bonkers, by the way. The imperial guard think Iljimae is dead, but then he appears and the show picks up from episode one.
The king’s afraid, because he didn’t keep his promise, and now Iljimae’s come to steal from him.
Once the job’s done, he returns to his plum tree and awaits. He turns his head as the plum flower petals fall…
- It has been great fun writing this post, but I realized that I have so much to say I think I’d better defer my comments to another post altogether. And besides, this post is already 4200 words long. I think I’ll spare your eyes for a while longer. Shoo! Go outside! Enjoy the fresh air! Go swimming!
- Feel free to leave questions and comments! I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m rested and up!