Home > Korean Dramas > Iljimae Episode 1, recap

Iljimae Episode 1, recap

Friday, May 23, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Iljimae csubs at the speed of light! Go thank the TSKS (天使) subbing team!

I tried to turn down the urge to mock, but I don’t think it worked. Bear with me.

Episode 1

We begin in the Lair of Darkness (aka We Didn’t Bother With Proper Suspenseful Lighting) and guttering torches. But it looks like they can apparently afford a pendulum map swinger. Go thieving priorities.

There is a map, and some plotting, and the usual male posturing.

Iljimae really wants to steal a bronze thing, which is just a Freudian symbol, but whatever. The rest of his gang tell him it’s impossible, which means he will naturally get it by the end of the episode. (And his gang – am I too used to the delicate beauty that is LJK, or are they especially ugly?)

We have the intro of the horrible iron mask. Iljimae’s motto is shockingly modern in its brazeness: There is nothing in this world safe from being stolen. For I am Iljimae. (What ego, forsooth?)

He gets into the city in disguise as an ice merchant because we all sell ice in the middle of the night. The guards have orders, since Iljimae sent his calling card in advance, that no one is to enter. Iljimae is privately amused. However, he and his alcoholic ice are so special, he gets in.

His excuse? Delivery for a banquet with Qing emissaries. Once inside, he shatters the frozen Kool-Aid to pieces because his equipment is in there. Woah fanservice. While changing into his special (5 million won hand-made) armour he does the whole sexy model hair flip thing. (Fans swoon.)

His mask is still ugly.

He flies up some secret storage room tunnel. Outside, there are of course patrols, but he’s not Iljimae for nothing – he can crawl in tunnels too. He comes out of a random vent statue. He’s so shiny, so of course he escapes the guards’ notice entirely and starts flying around on the roof, and NO ONE NOTICES, EVEN WHEN HE’S OUTLINED CLEARLY ON THE ROOF. BAD GUARDING, WOT.

More flying.

More flying.

And, guess what?


Then he does a sword tossing trick to kill a guard and incapacitates all other guards. He shoots a grip hook into the main palace. (No flying this time? Aww. Go machinery.)

To show how stupid the palace guard are, all the guards reassure their chief that no one is there.

Iljimae begins the long, arduous journey to the inner sanctum by climbing with the rope attached to the hook, no one notices, again. (Puts new meaning to the phrase, “Solid mahogany from the neck up”.)

This might have even worked in the day because the man has a freaking INVISIBILITY CLOAK. (Sevenses takes a moment for WHAAAAAT-ness.)

And he’s in the palace.

We see, in rapid succession: A mystical place with smoke! A bronze brazier! Iljimae’s fearsome mask! Also, the bronze thing he’s after, but tons of people come out of trapdoors, and there is an okayish action sequence. (Yay waterfight.)

Of course the royal guards are getting their asses handed to them, and Iljimae takes the opportunity to towel fight with no candle. Finally the guard people get a light, and it’s like woah he’s not there anymore. In a different room, a guard fights him, and, to our lasting (read: 2 seconds) shock, Iljimae is defeated.

Except not. It was bait and switch – the poor captured dude’s not Iljimae at all.

The guard that ran out… was Iljimae.

There is a cry of fury as the theft is discovered. On the roof, Iljimae indulges in a moment of I’m so cool watch me prance by tossing his hat into the wind. He looks directly at the camera, winks, and says, “There is nothing safe in this world, because I’m Iljimae.”

(Sevenses: *headdesking, facepalming, and throwing stuff in amusement-ing*)

It’s corny as hell, but LJK is so pretteh! He runs like a deer. (A deer with twenty pounds of armour on, but still.) As if the over-the-top adventure sequence wasn’t enough, the guards finally remember that their necks are capable of turning their heads upwards and see him. While they shoot a year’s worth of arrows at him, Iljimae prances around some more and then escapes.

He stops in a courtyard full of plum trees. He takes one in his hand and gets a little teary.

Flashback, aka the rest of the episode because we needs us some backstory.

There is a cute noble kid, in a very nice flowery garden, admiring the plum blossoms. His father is duly concerned that his son is a little too into the flowers and asks him why he likes plum. The precocious cutie replies that plum flowers are the best because they are not showy like cherry blossoms (Oh, Japan just got dissed!) nor melancholy like pear blossoms.

They bond, and the father paints.

We switch scenes to see a few figures on top of a hill with semi-ominous background music. A blind soothsayer is showing off his sixth sense, and the nobles present with him are nervous and unhappy. The leader of the men order the blind man killed after the guy hobbles down the hill.

Switch back to the cutie, who is named Kyum. His mother and sister come and see him. While his father is chatting with his mother about their travel plans to Seoul, Kyum does a drawing of the flowers he likes so much. In reward for painting so much better than his father, he agrees to take his son to Seoul with him. In passing, Kyum can also sing to the birds and charm them. (Gary Stu, thy name is Iljimae.)

The noble from earlier is now seen on a killing spree of random villagers. It turns out that they’re looking for the blind man’s wife. She is running away, with her daughter and son. When they hear hoofbeats behind them, she urges her son to take his sister away and to never reveal who their father was. She is killed by the nobles.

(I think the little girl is Bong Soon, of the flowery hanbok and impish grin. But more on that later.)

Our genius child is looking at the very bright and shiny lanterns at a random stall when the little peasant girl from earlier runs up to him and demands money for food. Kyum, ever the proper little lady gentleman, wrinkles his nose at her smell and makes to push her away. Poor little girl is so hungry she falls over right away, and Kyum is aghast. Her older brother comes and berates him for being a noble snob. Just as Ryung makes to apologize, some random servant comes to chase them away. (This will not be significant in the future, at all. Nope. Can’t be. *headdesk* We can has glaring obviousness attached to a hammer? Check.)

In another stall nearby a very pretty but unhappy seamstress is called away to work. She tells her son to stay put and stay safe, not because he’s a raging pyro capable of burning the city down, but because he’s so simple-hearted and clueless he’s bound to get into some sort of trouble.

As he wanders away from his mother’s stall, he accidentally bumps into Noble Annoyance #1 (Shi Wan), who has a flunky. They are righteously indignant that someone from the lower classes would dare bump into their holy bodies, and plot revenge. When Noble Annoyance #2 tells #1 that the boy’s father is supposedly a thief, they decide to frame him for theft.

Meanwhile Kyum drags his father to a public performance. The two Noble Annoyances spot Kyum’s father, take his pendant and put it in clueless boy’s bag.

We cut to Clueless’s father, who is impostering dock inspection in order to do some petty stealing (so the rumour was right, for once). Except he’s not very good, so he falls into the water instead.

The Noble Annoyances set their plan in motion and point the finger at Clueless, who is … as his name indicates, mystified. His mother gets back from her job to hear from a neighbor that her son is in trouble.

In the meantime, Kyum shows us some more of that uncommon smartness by performing some forensics on the stolen pouch. It had sweet white powder on it from dried persimmons, and as everyone except Noble Annoyance #1 has clean hands, it is revealed that this kid is a scumbag. The previously groveling city guard is not amused.

We find out that Kyum’s father is Lord Lee, and that he knows Clueless’s mother, and is also blatantly in love with her. She rushes away as fast as possible with her son in tow, pausing only to have a case of the vapours near her own house.

Lord Lee and Kyum are happily enjoying lunch when Noble Annoyance #1 stomps back, accusing them of diminishing noble honour. (Um, hello, pot calling kettle.) When Noble Annoyance insults Lord Lee, Kyum leaps up and punches him. The other boy begins to cry. (In passing, Kyum looks two or three years younger than The Brat.)

Lord Lee visits an old acquaintance and they discuss politics – there is discontent and unrest among the populace because the old, deposed king Gwanghae (more familiarly as Chang Hui’s crazy brother) did a good job of governing the country but the new king doesn’t know a tax cut from a subsidy. However, the new king has shiny noble blood, so it’s all okay.

The snotty brat from earlier is the Seoul governor’s son. The mayor, along with another noble, has the king’s ear and doing absolutely bad things to the country.

To illustrate what they mean, we cut to a pig the snotty brat’s father playing Korean golf. He’s got a whole troop of gisaeng in attendance – playing music and the such.


When the ball fails to go in, he beats up his caddy. Well. Karma is just going to have some fun with this one.

The snotty brat comes crying to dad. Dad is all panic! (Because Lord Lee saved the new king’s life at the time of revolution and is thus not someone to mess with.)

Eun Chae’s dad is this asshat??? *horrified* On second thought… she’s too smart to have parents like that. She’s probably adopted or an alien. Or both.

The seamstress from earlier is even unhappier than when we first met her. While washing her son’s feet, she flashes back to a time when a younger Lord Lee washed her foot. Her son is just grateful for such nice people, and the audience can totally tell his mother is trying not to tell him that the ‘nice man’ is his father.

(Note that Kyum’s dad is very egalitarian. Gil Dong would have liked him.)

Cut to Lord Idiot’s house. In an attempt to appease the almighty Lord Lee, he brings out the attack of the clone daughter. She lies like a … thing that lies well, and Lord Lee is appeased. Then Lord Idiot tries to bribe Kyum’s dad. He takes this badly.

The little Eun Chae charms Kyum and since they can both charm birds, we know that they are fated to be. She wants to hear the birdie sing so he climbs up and tugs her up.

(Kyum and Eun Chae, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Okay, they’re too young for that. But give them a few years.)

Kyum is not only smart, he is also deep. He explains that he feels bad for the bird because it only appears for a short time when the plum trees bloom. Their destiny is twined around that of the plum tree’s. (Very obvious foreshadowing of the next 19 episodes, where the girl just runs around the boy, would you say?) There is an inherent tragedy. It is hinted that he will tell her, but her daddy exits in a huff and puff, and… the house doesn’t blow down. Aww.

They leave, but the damage is done. Kyum and Eun Chae do the longing gaze thing.

Lord Lee meets with another old friend, who is in power, and they both agree that the old days with Gwanghae were better. However, this doesn’t mean that the other guy is willing to do anything, and after Lord Lee leaves, he tells his underlings to kill Lord Lee as a seditionist.

The next day, we see that Clueless is being picked on. His adoptive dad chases the other kids away but feels bad at being unable to provide him with a good home. We are meant to feel the depth of caring this man shows to someone who is not his own kid, but I just want to step on his self-pity. He promises to send Clueless to school so he won’t be a useless person like himself.

The mayor, who is one of the underlings, hires Clueless’s father to frame Lord Lee. He is told to bury something (looks like a curse parchment) under the Lee’s family home. In the night, when the thief turned agent goes to do his dastardly deed, Clueless follows him.

However, once inside the courtyard, he takes a good look at the paper he is supposed to bury and sees that it’s written in blood. He is creeped out and decides to not do it. Except that the Lord Idiot has him beaten for disobedience. Clueless is caught and used to frame the very people who helped him that afternoon.

Lord Lee’s daughter sees him crawling away.

Back at Lord Idiot’s house, he plans to kill them both. The mother hears of the events from the body servant of Lord Idiot, and rushes over to beg for their lives. Wow, this woman just gets around… apparently she also slept with Lord Idiot, and manages to convince him that Clueless is his son (not really – she was already pregnant when she slept with Lord Idiot – she was just trying to save Lord Lee from the embarrassment of having impregnated a servant, or something along those lines).

The next day, Clueless is dressed up as a noble scion. She gives him a speech about being good and not noticing her on the street even if he passed her by, because he has noble blood. Clueless is devastated.

(In passing, anticipating the spoiled brat’s face when he finds out! Ha!)

The adoptive father is sobbing away under a tree, sad at being a bad father.

In the Lee residence, everything seems great, but the audience knows the happiness and peace won’t last forever.

Kyum petitions his father to teach him how to use a sword, and his father tells him that there are two types of swords in the world – those used to kill and those used to save.

“In this life, I hope you never have to pick up a sword. But if you do, remember that you must always use your sword to save people, for that is the only type of sword tolerated in this world.”

Kyum is radiantly happy.

At night, the assassins move in. A dog barks in the yard, alerting Lord Lee to the intruders. Not having time to flee, he picks up Kyum, who has fallen asleep at his books, and puts him in a cabinet. He makes his son promise to stay alive no matter what happens to him and passes on the good luck pouch to him.

Then the father locks the cabinet, and goes out to face the three assassins.


– Stuff we know: Kyum is Iljimae. Eun Chae is his future girlfriend/love interest. Bong Soon aka the blind man’s daughter, ditto. Clueless/Cha Dol is Iljimae’s unknown half-brother.

– First impressions are on the meh side. The beginning was overdone, though plus points for assiduous application of CGI. The introductory episode is on the clumsy side of things – drops everything in our laps like that.

– It strikes me that in going for cool, the people overshot and got ridiculously overdone instead. But the kiddies slay me with their cute, so I will keep watching. I know from right now, that my recaps are not going to be monstrous things at all.

– Stats: 2691 words!


  1. Jess
    Friday, May 23, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Ahh had so much fun reading this!

    Love your new (?) style of recapping, Sevenses.

  2. flyingcrispi
    Friday, May 23, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Gee, you’re so funnny! I almost forgot how good reading your recaps was. I’m really looking forward the subs…
    I would have picked my favorite sentences, but I loved most of them, so it would have been a loooong list. I’ll come back and comment once I see this ep.

  3. irugnotmis
    Friday, May 23, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    looks like i won’t need to recap for this series 🙂
    but gee, I’m glad that the invisibility cloak is around since ancient Korea.

  4. Da
    Saturday, May 24, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Thanks so much for your recap, it’s my first time in this blog ! so happy that there’s people who made a recap for iljimae coz i’m junki’s fan ^^

    WOW your writing is so funny~~~~~~ i like it haha

    can’t wait for the episode 2’s recap ^^

  5. sevenses
    Monday, May 26, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Jess – I generally slip in a bit of mockery here and there, but this episode was so ridiculous that I found sarcasm very easy. Hence this strange strange recap. Ep2, I hope, is slightly more normal.

    Flyingcrispi – watch it soon! I want to know your reaction when you see the invisibility cloak.

    Iurgnotmis – ah. One of us should be enough. If you like, we can tag-team it, but I’m probably not watching the Lee Seung Gi version when it comes out. (And I think you are plenty busy with Last Friends, no?)

    Da – Welcome! Have a look around, and I hope you enjoy the rest too!

  6. flyingcrispi
    Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 5:33 am

    Just saw it…
    I thought the invisibility cloak was a joke. My jaw dropped when I saw it was not… Well, that wasn’t as good as Gil Dong, but it reminded me of Legend, where the first episodes were all about flashbacking us, and not so interesting.
    I hope it improves.
    By the way, why don’t you make every recap that fun? There nothing wrong with sarcasm.

  7. sevenses
    Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the invisibility cloak. I was watching it with my neechan, and we both spewed orange juice. Apparently the director has been quoted as saying, “I thought the young fans of Harry Potter would enjoy that.” (Um, but no hot, sweaty Oliver Wood? Damn!)

    I think it does improve, much like HGD, remember the first few eps? Granted, they were less ridiculous and more goofy, but the flying around is something in common to both.

    I sprinkle in sarcasm when I can. The next episode is almost all unbridled tragedy, and it’s hard to be sarcastic without seeming inhumanly harsh, so … will have to wait for muse. The thing about this first episode is that it’s so easy to poke fun at. Other times I have to work at being funny.

    Thank you for saying it was fun to read! That’s what I’m here for!

  8. irugnotmis
    Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Ok! Let’s tag-team it! But, how? 😀

  9. sevenses
    Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I was hoping the other Iljimae would air at the same time (thus unleashing a ratings war the likes of which no one has seen) and we could recap side by side and compare the series. Or, I don’t know, something like for Hong Gil Dong.

    But your commentaries are great too. I know where to go for laughing. 🙂

  10. irugnotmis
    Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    gosh that sounds like fun! i would be so up for it lol
    any idea when the other version will air?

  11. yunyun
    Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    cool and funny recap! i missed the first part of the ep on TV with grown up Kyum aka LJK. i like your blog too! 🙂

  12. Pari
    Friday, April 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for your awesome recaps 🙂 We are on the same wavelength –> “the people overshot and got ridiculously overdone instead.”

  13. Starr
    Friday, March 16, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Thanks, i watched this first episode months ago and forgot it.
    Now i remember why it took me so long to watch the next one.
    Off to watch the pain anyway. Lol

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