Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to Episode 11 of Damo. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what comes next, so I’ve been dragging my feet.
The episode opens with the former thief instructing his borrowed troops to masquerade as a rebel band, under the supervision of Jang Sung Baek’s younger sister (so much truer than he and the damo know!). They scare villagers and bully travelers to establish their false identities.
Meanwhile, Chief Joh’s investigation is at a standstill, since his suspects are too high in the court hierarchy to touch. When he receives the letter Chae Ohk faked for the police chief who lent them the soldiers, he knows right away who to blame, and what they are up to. If they can capture the rebel leader, that will move the investigation forward. Chief Joh sends Hwangbo after Chae Ohk.
At a rebel meeting, a captain crows with delight over their successful misdirection of the forces that are hunting them. Then he reports that another band claims to be led by Boss Jang’s younger sister. Jang abruptly leaves the meeting.
He rides hard with a small entourage. They finally reach a wooded encampment, which appears to be deserted. Gak Chool shouts a challenge to whomever is impersonating rebels. Chae Ohk steps out from behind a tent, followed by the former thief, and a large number of soldiers who were hiding in the woods. Chae Ohk and Boss Jang have a staredown. He calls her vicious. She says she learned it from him. The former thief signals, and a soldier shoots one of Boss Jang’s men.
Gak Chool throws a fit, and demands that they shoot him, too, but Boss Jang ignores him and walks towards Chae Ohk. He stops in front of her and she pulls her sword. He reminds her that he said they should not meet again over drawn swords. He doesn’t want to fight her. Chae Ohk wants to fight him, however (or is it her feelings for him she wants to kill?), and slashes his cheek. He says if their relationship requires them to see blood, he must sever it now.
Just then, they hear hoofbeats, and Hwangbo arrives with Officers Lee and Baek. He circles Chae Ohk and Boss Jang on his horse. Now the staredown is between Hwangbo and Boss Jang. Hwangbo asks if he is Jang Sung Baek, spitting out the words. Chae Ohk sees Boss Jang’s hand tighten on his sword, and jumps in to block him. Hwangbo orders her to stand aside. She protests that she will kill him herself. Glaring, Hwangbo tells her she is a servant girl awaiting punishment (ouch!), and orders the officers to remove her. She could take them, of course, but she reluctantly allows herself to be pulled aside, where they beg her in whispers not to interfere.
Hwangbo dismounts and confronts Boss Jang, introducing himself. Jang Sung-Baek says he’s the best police commander in Korea. He has said this to Hwangbo before, while in disguise, and Hwangbo flashes back to it. He says Boss Jang’s sword is stained with the blood of Chief Joh’s son, and all the young soldiers who died with him. Boss Jang says his sword holds the anger of the people. Hwangbo asks whether the hundreds of slaughtered soldiers aren’t the sons of the people?
This isn’t what Boss Jang was expecting from Hwangbo, who then demands that he throw down his sword. The rebel says a leader’s sword goes with him to the grave. Hwangbo gets right up into his face and asks softly, so the others can’t hear, whether this leader was manipulated by his feelings for a damo. Boss Jang glances at Chae Ohk, but she doesn’t know where Hwangbo got his information either.
Hwango says the sword of a man who opposes heaven does not follow its master. Boss Jang retorts that if the people are not of heaven, he will destroy heaven as well. Hwangbo recognizes the teachings of Jang Sung Baek’s teacher, a traitor who also achieved nothing in his life, Hwangbo points out, calling Boss Jang “ignorant.” Hwangbo’s sword will fight on behalf of the general and all the others Boss Jang killed, but he won’t take Boss Jang’s life now, just his sword.
He grabs Boss Jang’s face as he speaks these last words, but Jang Sung Baek peels his hand off. Hwangbo turns his back on him as he demands that Hwangbo draw his sword. Soo Myung starts to draw hers. Hearing it, Hwangbo turns and draws and they fight for a minute, spiraling in the air as supporters look on anxiously. They cross swords and Hwangbo says this is what he wanted, and he’s going to give in to it, ordering the others not to interfere.
They start to fight again, but one of the borrowed soldiers shoots Boss Jang in the leg. Gak Chool is incensed, and can’t contain himself. He throws darts at Hwangbo, and then fireworks at Chae Ohk’s men, and chaos ensues. Soldiers on both sides starts spraying arrows, bullets, swords and fireworks everywhere. Chae Ohk tackles Hwangbo to the ground to save him from gunfire, and they exchange a long look as she pulls the darts out. Boss Jang’s supporters get him onto a horse and he escapes. Gak Chool looks away from the fight to watch him go, and is hit. As he falls to the ground asking his already-departed comrades to take care of his daughter (the one who looks exactly like young Chae Ohk), he is pin-cushioned with more arrows.
Hwangbo takes off after the rebels, leaving the officers to meet a late-arriving backup force. They, too, go after the rebels. Only the former thief remains behind, weeping and apologizing over the remains of Gak Chool.
Boss Jang’s forces separate to lure the soldiers away, while he proceeds in a different direction with Soo Myung. Chae Ohk is hot on his trail, however, and soon is tackling him, knocking him off his horse. The pursuit continues on foot, despite him having been shot in the thigh, but soon he turns, and they cross swords. He cuts her, and warns her he will no longer hold back. She comes right back at him, and he keeps his promise, but he seems to be fighting with a stick rather than a sword.
He knocks her down and she rolls down a hill, then starts to fall into a hole that was hidden by leaves. He comes running back to rescue her, but first she tries to hit him, and then refuses to take his hand. The ground around the hole is shifting dangerously however. He asks how she is going to kill him if she can’t even endure a moment of shame. She finally lets go of the vine she is clinging to and reaches out one hand to him, but he can’t quite reach her, and they both fall in.
Soo Myung, who was riding ahead, realizes she has lost him, and circles back to the other party to see if he has joined them. When he isn’t there, she wants to head back and look for him, but the head of the men tells her to trust that Boss Jang can take care of himself. If they go back, they could all be killed before getting word out and Gak Chool would have died in vain. He orders her to ride on and inform the Magistrate.
Meanwhile, Hwangbo has stopped to tourniquet his own wounded leg. Officers Lee and Baek ride up, and report that they lost Jang Sung Baek’s soldiers. But where is Chae Ohk? She was behind Hwangbo. The officers are confident that she will bring Boss Jang down. Hwangbo does not look pleased at this prospect.
Chae Ohk awakens in a damp, stony cave, bruised and confused. Looking around, she spots Boss Jang, who is lying twisted and unconscious, partly covered by rocks. She clears them away, bumping a wound in the process so that he awakens suddenly, screaming. She jumps back and holds him at swordpoint. He asks what she is waiting for, and tells her to take his life. They both look down at the rivulet of blood that is running from his body. He is in no condition to defend himself.
The King is holding court. Messengers from a Japanese island between Korea and Japan have brought a proposal for a lucrative trade arrangement. There is debate among courtiers about whether foreign trade directly with the capital city should be permitted. The Lord who is secretly behind the rebels advocates for allowing the foreigners into the capitol, under the supervision of forces personally selected and supervised by himself. The King asks Chief Joh’s opinion. Chief Joh doesn’t directly oppose the proposed course, but suggests trying it for a year before making any permanent arrangements. The King agrees.
Chief Joh mulls over the implications of the minister’s offer to personally manage forces as he walks away from the meeting. The clerk brings him a report on the autopsies of the massacred lepers. Looking over the Chief’s shoulder, the clerk’s son comments on the nature of the wounds. His father pulls him away and asks what he is doing there. He asks about Chae Ohk. Chief Joh calls for him (and we finally learn his name is Supervisor Ahn), and asks for a tactical analysis of the report. Supervisor Ahn tells him that the nature of the wounds indicates a trained force of Japanese warriors.
The Magistrate has informed the Lord about Boss Jang’s disappearance. The Lord orders their own forces sent in to search. The Magistrate protests that they are under scrutiny, and are risking 10 years of planning, but the Lord says he will take care of it.
In the cave, Chae Ohk tourniquet’s Boss Jang’s thigh with her hair band, telling him the bullet went all the way through and the arrow missed the bone. She starts to set his broken ankle. He tries to push her away but she slaps him. He tells her she is the first – and last – person who has given him a bloody lip and lived. She tells him to bite down on something, as he did when removing her bullet, but he doesn’t. She sets the ankle and he screams in pain. Outside, Left Police soldiers are searching the forest for them by torchlight. Hwangbo is with them, waiting for news.
Chae Ohk makes a torch. Boss Jang asks what she’s going to do now. She says they have to get out, and starts away to explore the cave. Then she stops with her back to him and asks why he saved her. He says he didn’t think, just acted on his instincts. He is looking pretty done in. She grabs her sword and sets off. The cave is large with many chambers and the floor is rocky. Chae Ohk can’t find a way out.
Hwangbo is poring over maps of the area at a temporary camp in the woods. The officers return to report that there’s no sign of her. They feel she must be with Boss Jang, as she would have returned if she had killed him or lost him. Perhaps he has captured her. Hwangbo doesn’t think he would kill her, though he doesn’t say why. The former thief agrees. But either way, Hwangbo says, they must find her or her body. He walks away, telling the former thief to go back to the capital. The officers pick up on this, but he refuses to go until he finds out what happened to Chae Ohk, despite their bullying.
They aren’t alone in the woods, though. Boss Jang’s men are watching them, waiting for them to call off the search for the night so their boss can give them a signal. One man blames himself for holding Gak Chool back. His body will be taken to the capital and put on display, an unbearable thought. He asks how many soldiers are back at the Left Police base camp. Not enough. They kill a few guards and rescue Gak Chool’s body.
Hwangbo is in his tent flashing back to Chae Ohk’s delirious pleas for Jang Sung Baek to flee the oncoming raid. In a rage, he breaks the teacup he is holding and cuts himself. The local commander enters the tent to report that it’s too dark for more searching, and he going to withdraw his troops. Hwangbo tells him it is the order of the King, but realizes he has gone too far when the local commander asks to see the document. Hwangbo says he meant it was the King’s wish that Jang Sung Baek be captured. The commander tells him if he invokes the King’s name, he must be prepared to take responsibility for his words. Hwangbo asks how many rounds of gunpowder they have at the base camp.
Chae Ohk has returned to Jang Sung Baek. There is no way out except the hole they fell down through, which is so far over their heads they would not even be heard if they shouted. He tosses her a bamboo tube – a flare. If she does not shoot it accurately out of the hole, they will die in the cave together. Chae Ohk warns him that she will not set him free if they escape from the cave. He says no one captures him and no one sets him free – only his own will matters. However, he is clearly in a very bad way from his injuries.
She starts to set up the flare, and he ask which side she thinks will find them first? One of them will die, which ever side it is. She hesitates for a minute at this thought, but what else is there to do?
At the searcher’s camp, Hwangbo is supervising the setup of gunpowder flares to make light for the search. He gives the word at the same time Chae Ohk lights her flare. Hers goes up seconds before the searchers’. The rebels immediately realize what it is, and so does Hwangbo, but by then, lit arrows and explosives are flying everywhere. He races off towards the first flare, shouting at them to stop.
In the cave, Chae Ohk sees flashes outside the hole with relief. Boss Jang comments that they saw it – she will live. She knows what that means for him.
Officer Baek is kneeling with Hwangbo’s sword at his neck. Hwangbo is raging that Chae Ohk showed them the way. Office Lee reminds him that Chae Ohk didn’t have a flare, so it must’ve been lit by Jang Sung Baek. Hwangbo recovers enough control to say that of course that is who they are searching for. Officer Lee sends everyone else away.
The rebels are still waiting with Gak Chool’s body. His comrade apologizes to him, and promises to bring his daughter to his grave on the day the new world comes. Then he covers him up, stands, and says if they can’t rescue their boss they will die with him.
Officer Lee looks Hwangbo in the eye and asks whether it is Jang Sung Baek they are hunting, or is it Chae Ohk? Hwangbo says capturing Boss Jang is the King’s will. He can’t have gotten off the mountain covered with soldiers. They must not lose this chance to capture him. However, he is sure they are together, and Chae Ohk fired the flare, as a hunted man in the middle of his enemies would hardly do so. He wants Chae Ohk to survive, but even that comes second to the capture. He seems to be trying to tell Officer Lee that Chae Ohk may have gone over to the other side without saying it out loud, and is frustrated when he doesn’t pick up on it. Some of the soldiers set off some more fireworks near him. He storms off, shouting at them to stop, though it won’t make any difference now.
In the cave, Boss Jang remarks that rescue is slow to come. Chae Ohk says it will come. He says that way at least one of them will live. She tells him not to get all high and mighty. He reminds her that he always said he was just one of the people. And she is too, and in another time would be free to live and be loved. She tells him they can’t just blame the times – it is their cruel destiny. He agrees – if he had killed her when she came to warn him, or thought of his fallen comrade instead of trying to rescue her from the hole, he would not be there. You must kill with the heart first, he says. Then with the sword. He always hesitated with her, and he still doesn’t know why.
He asks isn’t she afraid? He is horrified at Gak Chool’s death, and afraid he’ll never see his comrades again. He starts to talk about his lost little sister having to live like an animal. More than anything, he fears for her. Tears are running down Chae Ohk’s face as she listens to what well may be his dying words.
Lee Seo Jin fans may be interested to hear that he was the first guest on a new book/discussion program on KBS. The program debuted in Korea last week and is called Moonlight Prince. No word yet on whether it will be available with subtitles on KBS World. If you hear any news, please share!
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