Dong-yi Episode 4, recap
I was going to put a sad picture here, but why be depressed all the time?
The city is being turned inside-out by soldiers and officers in search of Geumgae members. As a side note, we’re introduced to Hwang Joo-shik, Dong-ju’s erstwhile boss and a section leader in the royal music department. He has a penchant for taking expensive, commissioned instruments home and replacing them with older ones – which I presume will come back to bite, but not yet.
Convinced as he is that the Geumgae were responsible after all, Seo petitions Lord Oh, he of the evil teddybear look (he even comes with faux ears, oh dear). He wants to be put in charge of the hunt for Dong-yi and other miscellaneous members of the Geumgae.
As it turns out, Lord Oh has a soft spot for Seo’s straight-talking, honest ways, and allows him to do so. His nephew and all-around scoundrel Oh Yoon is not pleased.
Seo may still believe that his mentor was innocent and feels the duty to find Dong-yi, but it doesn’t seem like it at the moment.
Devastated and alone, Dong-yi spends her time sleeping in fields and occasionally stealing food. She’d gone to her now-abandoned house first, but a narrow shave with patrolmen forced her to stay on the move.
Since she’s the only (known) person with associations to the Geumgae who’s still alive, the search is pretty intense. When she’s finally spotted by soldiers during the night of the Lunar New Year festival, Dong-yi runs frantically through the streets to evade them.
Luckily for her, the festival entails a sizable crowd and many, many fireworks, so her escape can’t be followed.
Dong-yi sees other children having fun, which reminds her of her own terrible losses. Looking around, she sees that a nearby stall sells paper balloons on which children write their wishes and then send them floating into the sky, but this year, Dong-yi isn’t joining in on the festivities.
The stall owner, out the kindness, invites her to grab a balloon and write her own wishes.
We see Dong-yi write the Geumgae symbol onto the balloon (something Chun-soo had made her promise, that she would write the symbol and he would come find her). Thinking that Chun-soo and the rest of her family dead, this is a way for her to bid them goodbye. Dong-yi says, with her face turned upwards, that she will keep her promise to her father and live a happy life from now on.
(If your heart doesn’t break a little, you are not human.)
While foraging through the leftovers at an inn, Dong-yi overhears the owner catching another thief. To her shock, it’s Ge-dwo-ra, the little boy she played with. Like Dong-yi, he’s also an orphan. He had been on a boat to escape the capital with others in the Geumgae, but they were ambushed by soldiers. He was the only one who managed to escape.
Dong-yi takes him to hide near the palace, because the guards won’t search close to its walls. Ge-dwo-ra’s been on the run for several days now, and in addition to the layer of dirt, the wintry temperatures have given him frostbite.
The two children take strength from the stars in the sky, imagining that their loved ones are looking at them from above.
They’re both in pretty bad shape, but Ge-dwo-ra generously shares his clothes and scraps of food. Unfortunately, some of the meat he’d picked out of the garbage had gone bad, and now he needs urgent medical care.
Back at the office, Seo is in a foul mood, brooding on his betrayal by Choi Hyo-won. Dong-yi’s trail gets picked up at the inn where she and Ge-dwo-ra met. Despite everything that’s happened, Seo still cares enough about Dong-yi to wonder how she’s doing in the wild, in the middle of winter.
The next day, Dong-yi carries Ge-dwo-ra to a medical centre for the poor, where she’s recognized as a fugitive by one of the medical officers. Luckily, he got treated before they had to run.
With soldiers after them, Dong-yi decides that it’s better for them to split up and meet at their hiding spot. The chase lasts well into the night, with Dong-yi leading the soldiers away onto a mountain. When Seo finally does catch up to her, she begs him to let her go. Seo’s pretty stone-faced throughout her efforts at appealing to his sympathy, but he does tell her to go. It’s the only chance he’s giving her, but at least it’s a chance.
However, when he calls her father a criminal, Dong-yi isn’t willing to let it slide. She brings up the mysterious hand gesture that Jang Ok-jeong had used, in common with the murdered Inspector General. Sensing a breakthrough, or at least an important clue, Seo turns around to talk to her. Unfortunately, his soldiers catch up with him, and Dong-yi slows back away. Mountainous terrain being what it is, she falls down the slope and disappears.
Luckily for her, Seol-hee, the gisaeng introduced last episode, has sent men out to look for Dong-yi, and they get to the unconscious girl before Seo’s people do. There were hints from the beginning about Seol-hee’s feelings for Dong-yi’s older brother, and she’s refused all other advances, even from more powerful men (Oh Yoon being one of them). A flashback shows that Chun-soo had asked her to take care of Dong-yi if something went wrong with the rescue.
The plan is to take Dong-yi and Ge-dwo-ra away to some corner of the kingdom, so that they can live on in relative peace and comfort. Seol-hee’s prepared for adoption papers and passage – everything to prevent arousing suspicion.
Dong-yi refuses to go, because she wants to stay in the capital. She knows that the key to solving the mystery of the hand gesture is with the court maiden she saw, and begs Seol-hee to allow her to enter the palace. Dong-yi’s need to prove her father’s innocence overrules any objections with regards to, you know, safety or survival. She argues that the palace is the safest place in the capital, and no one would think to search for a criminal there.
Seol-hee is reluctant, but Dong-yi is nothing if not stubborn.
In a rather obvious coincidence, a girl wearing Dong-yi’s colourful ceremonial clothes was found dead. Conveniently, the body is decomposed and frozen, so the police cannot fully identify her. Rather than pursue the matter, Seo confirms the girl as Dong-yi, and lets the matter end there. His subordinate knows that he’s lying, but chooses to stay silent along with his boss.
Seo incorrectly guesses that Dong-yi must have escaped to the farther reaches of the kingdom, and resolves to find her so he can solve the mystery (to which I say, dude, good luck). He doesn’t say so, but it’s obviously safer for Dong-yi if everyone thinks she is dead, and easier for him to investigate if the perpetrators’ guards are down.
Seol-hee, Ge-dwo-ra and Dong-yi share a tearful farewell at the docks, knowing that it would be very difficult to see each other again. Greedy as he is, Hwang Joon-sik isn’t without a nurturing soul (it’s buried very, very deeply). He takes Dong-yi under his wing, having agreed to Seol-hee’s request and arranged for Dong-yi to work as a slave in the royal music department.
Being the general dogsbody of the music department is horrible and tiring, but Dong-yi applies herself to her tasks diligently.
During her first night in the palace, Dong-yi looks around at the instruments around her, and remembers Dong-ju’s first attempt at teaching her how to play the haegeum.
Predictably, she’s horrible and makes dying-cat sounds. Dong-ju jokingly tells his father that maybe she isn’t related to them after all, while Chun-soo pipes up in support of his ‘future bride’. At this, Dong-ju laughingly demands to know what right Chun-soo has to say anything like that – and Dong-yi blurts out that when she gets older, she will marry Chun-soo, just you wait!
Back in the present, Dong-yi picks up a haegeum and begins playing out of nostalgia.
So the seasons pass, and time goes by…
… and the king falls a little in love with the music.
- The most indiscreet attempt at Witness Protection ever: Chung Dong-yi instead of Choi Dong-yi.
- Dong-yi’s got pretty epic survival skills, I’ll give her that.
- I’m not going to keep recapping this series, for several reasons:
a) Han Hyo-joo has about 3 expressions throughout any single episode.
b) The plot is very bare – the twists barely bend, and I always see through them, so it’s kind of like watching a James Bond movie – you know he’s going to sleep with someone, break the Doom Lever and get out of the locked room in one piece so it’s not exactly scintillating.
c) It’s difficult to find anything deep about the characters. They’re all 2D – for a while Jang Ok-jeong had that nobility vs ambition thing going on, but it’s like people in this drama flip a coin: either they’re evil or they’re not.
d) To put it bluntly, Dong-yi’s very superficial.
- OTOH! It’s an enjoyable watch (especially the “It’s either the ground or the fence, sir, choose!” bit), but there’s nothing to write home about, so I’m going to move on.