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July 13, 2013

Damo – Episode 13 – Korean drama recap

Soo Myung supports Boss Jang's head as she gives him some waterEpisode 13 of Damo opens with a still unconscious Jang Sung Baek being tended by a doctor. Soo Myung, the Magistrate, and another conspirator look on. The doctor tells them he will recover, and leaves. The Magistrate tries to dismiss Soo Myung, but she refuses to go. The other man wonders whether it was worth risking so many lives to save one man. Soo Myung breaks in to pronounce that Jang Sung Baek is the heart of the people. The Magistrate tells her to shut up and do as she’s told.

Boss Jang wakes up. Dark veins are showing in his face. The Magistrate tells him how close to death he came, and asks him how he could let that damo use such a powerful poison on him. Jang Sung Baek suppresses a smile. But his expression changes when the other man tells him 43 men were killed during the rescue.

Gak Chool's young daughter sadly misses her daddyGak Chool’s young daughter places white chrysanthemums on her father’s grave. She leans forward to embrace the mound that covers him, and speaks his name. Jang Sung Baek looks on. His leg is bandaged and he walks with a cane, but he’s wearing clean clothes and looks much healthier. He bends down to the little girl. When she asks whether her father will wake up, he embraces her, weeping.

Hwangbo and the officers are eating outside an inn. The damo, bound, sits apart from them, looking depressed. The former thief paces between them, trying to persuade Chae Ohk to eat something, and the officers to loosen her bonds. When he has no success either way, he announces he’ll return home ahead of them, as he has left his wife alone for too long. Officer Baek tells him not to pretend, he knows the former thief disapproves of how they are treating the damo.

Jang Sung Baek, dressed for a journey, is crossing a river, awkwardly hobbling from rock to rock. In a voiceover, he speaks of his shame at his reckless behavior that caused so many deaths. Now we see he is flashing back to a meeting of the rebel leaders. He tells them he will leave, as he has made a mistake he would not have tolerated in anyone else.
Boss Jang stands alone on a boulder in the middle of a rocky river

As he continues walking along, Soo Myung appears and kneels at his feet. She says she doesn’t understand the politics of it, but she doesn’t know what to do if he goes. He tells her he can’t face those who died. She holds out her sword, and tells him to take her along, or kill her first, then go. He says he’ll pray for his brothers to go to heaven, and go where his feet take him.

Soo Myung jumps up and accuses him of lying. She knows he’s going to find the damo, and asks him what happened, why he can’t let go of her. He pushes past her and continues on his way without answering, but some of his men have arrived. The captain who searched the mountain for him and stole back Gak Chool’s corpse reminds him of his impassioned vision of a better world that inspired his followers to join him, but he apologizes and tells them to consider him to have died in the cave. Jang Sung Baek is no more – he is only commoner Jang Jae Mo (his real name, before his teacher renamed him).

The captain pulls his sword, and holds it to Jang Jae Mo’s throat. Soo Myung does the same to the captain. Jang Jae Mo tells the captain to kill him. He and Soo Myung withdraw their swords. The Captain tells him not appear before them again, then turns and tells his men that Jang Sung Baek died at the hands of their enemies. Just then a messenger arrives, telling the captain that the soldiers from headquarters are massacring everyone in the village below. If anyone talks, the rebels hiding out on the mountain will be massacred too.

The captain tells his men they are leaving the camp. Jang Jae Mo says they must stay and save the villagers, but the captain says it’s already too late, and tells him to keep out of it. Jang pushes past them and hobbles as fast as he can down the mountainside, as the smoke of burned huts rises ahead of him. By the time he arrives, the village streets are littered with bodies. He cradles a dead old woman and sobs.

Then he finds the bloody body of Gak Chool’s daughter, with white chrysanthemums still in her hand. He thinks, if she had to be sacrificed for a better world, then god himself should die, and screams. The Magistrate and the other man watch from the trees. The other man asks if it was really necessary to kill a child. The Minister will punish the Magistrate if he finds out. Magistrate says he knows it was wrong, but it was the only way to get Boss Jang back. The date for the rebellion is set, and they must have the leader or the plan they have been working up to for years will fall apart.

The rebels stand by the wailing village survivors. As more children weep for lost parents, Boss Jang puts his hand out to Soo Myung, who is carrying his sword, and takes it from her. The day the crown prince’s wife is chosen will be the day the anger of their brothers will burn the palace, he says.

Chief Joh is sitting at a table with Nan Hui. Since the crown prince’s wife will be chosen soon, her marriage must be put on hold, while she serves at the court as a bridesmaid. He wishes he had arranged a humble marriage for her sooner, since he has lost everything and has nothing to look forward to but shame. From now on, she must rely on Hwangbo, not her father.

Could the suicide attempt have been real? But no, as he leaves the room, the spy is just outside, and tells Chief Joh that he has something to tell him. There is someone who wants to see him.

Nan Hui is embroidering in her room at night. She pricks her finger, bleeding on the cloth, and wraps it up, flashing back to her conversation with her father. He is telling her not to react too strongly to apparently good and bad events, as the future is unpredictable. She thinks he is still depressed, and wants to take him away from the capital. He says they should leave with his son’s widow and his grandchild, so that Nan Hui won’t be lonely. She is disturbed by the memory and goes to his room, where a single candle is burning. She calls outside the door, but when there is no answer, she opens it.

Chief Joh walks through the woods with the spy, asking how much farther they have to go. The spy tells him they are almost there.

Nan Hui finds a letter addressed to Hwangbo in her father’s empty room. She opens and reads it. He says he has deceived her and gone to meet their enemies with a sword in his heart. If he doesn’t return, he asks Hwangbo to take care of Nan Hui, since she no longer has a brother to turn to. He misses his son terribly. Nan Hui looks stricken and jumps up.

Nan Hui meets soldiers as they pour out of the police station. They are heading out to search for the Chief, and she says she’ll go along.

The spy stops, kneels, and asks Chief Joh if he is loyal to the King or the people. The Chief answers as if he is shocked to discover the spy’s real affiliation. He won’t defy the will of heaven (i.e., the King). The spy argues that the plans of the conspirators are the will of heaven. The Chief asks who he serves, but he demands an answer first. Chief Joh isn’t afraid to die, but doesn’t want his family branded as rebels. He says although there may be a leader worth following, he can’t go against the will of heaven. A voice from the woods tells him they can change the world if only he will join with them.

Chief Joh turns, and demands to know who is there. There is a circle of torch bearers in the woods all around him. The Minister of Defense steps forward.

Meanwhile, soldiers with torches comb the woods, calling for the Chief.

Chief Joh asks the Minister why he would do such a thing, when he holds the King’s favor. The Minister replies that it’s for the good of the people. A rebellion to topple the King is imminent. Will Chief Joh join him? The Chief says he promised absolute loyalty for eternity. However, he, continues, he is no longer loyal. The Minister laughs heartily at this. Chief Joh asks for time until morning to think it over. The Minister doesn’t look happy about this request, but he agrees, instructing the spy to accompany Chief Joh respectfully until he rejoins the Minister for breakfast.

As they turn to leave, the spy notices Chief Joh’s sword under his robes, and asks why he was concealing it. Chief Joh answers calmly that a military officer always travels prepared. At that inopportune moment, a messenger arrives and tells the Minister that Left Police soldiers are on the way. Chief Joh denies having summoned them, but the Minister doesn’t believe him, so he draws his sword.

He is immediately surrounded by soldiers, but warns the Minister that even if he is killed, he will return to bring down the rebels. The spy impales him from behind as he finishes this speech. He then apologizes to the Minister, but the Minister does to him what he did to Chief Joh. One mistake at this point can ruin all their plans. He orders his men to kill the Left Police soldiers, as they have come too close. They head out, leaving Chief Joh lying on the ground. We see that he is not yet dead.
Lord Kato raises his sword over his head, revealing the tree branches tattooed across his torso
The Japanese assassin leader (Ahn Kye Beom) is practicing swordplay bare-chested in the woods. A cherry tree tattoo curls around his torso. While he decapitates a row of innocent bamboo posts, the Magistrate reads a message at a nearby table, ignoring him. As he sheathes his sword, the Magistrate looks up grimly and orders him to kill Hwangbo, Chae Ohk, the two Left Police officers, and the former thief. As Lord Kato (the assassin) starts to leave, the Magistrate instructs him to take the former thief’s wife prisoner while he is at it.

The former thief lies in bed with his wife, trying to convince himself he has done enough. Restless, he awakens his wife for sex. She is annoyed, and pleads pregnancy, sending him for water instead. The assassins are racing towards their cottage through the dark woods, slipping in as he sets out with buckets.

Hwangbo sits in the tent, torturing himself with the memory of Chae Ohk’s declaration of love for Jang Sung Baek while the damo sleeps on the ground nearby. She awakens to hear him telling her to come outside. She stands in a field of tall grass with her hands folded, as Hwangbo speaks with his back turned to her. He says he thought they were one, and never imagined a day like this could come. Her eyes widen as he turns and starts to draw his sword, but he offers it to her and tells her to kill him to prove her determination to be with Jang Sang Baek, as she will have to kill one of them. He speaks softly, weeping.
Hwangbo and the damo stand facing each other in a field of tall grass while Chae Ohk raises her sword
She accepts the sword, calling him young master as she did when they were children. He thanks her. She promises to make it quick, and apologizes, raising the sword. Then she sweeps it around and brings it upward in a stabbing motion – we hear it meet flesh. Hwangbo stares at her incredulously, but she meets his gaze defiantly. He has stopped the sword with his hand, as perhaps she knew he would. But he has to accept the truth of what she has told him at last.

Then shooting erupts, and Hwangbo appears to be hit, despite his armor. He and Chae Ohk lie low in the field as the officers pursue the shooters out of the camp. The damo starts towards Hwangbo, but he tells her to keep away, insisting he isn’t wounded, though he seems to be suppressing pain. He tells her to go. He will only remember the child Jae Hui whom he first met so many years ago. She is weeping too by now. He tells her again to leave, and looks away from her. She gives him one more long look, and starts to walk away, very slowly. After a few paces, she pauses, and looks back. She can’t see him in the weeds, but he can see her. Then she gathers her determination, turns, and runs.

Hwangbo lies in the field, telling himself that the child he knew has left his side, and that he had not done anything for her. As the camera pulls back, and we see that he is covered in blood, he tells that little girl to fly away to a place where nothing will restrict her.

Jang Sung Baek is brooding by a campfire, distraught. He remembers how Chae Ohk stopped him from answering Hwangbo when he called down to her from the mouth of the cave.

The Japanese assassins race through the woods on horseback, as Chae Ohk ducks behind a tree.

Two assassins have brought a squirming bag to Lord Kato, but they tell him the former thief was not at home. The assassin leader slices a body part from one of the failed assassins and tells the other he has been promoted. As other members of the team arrive, he decides not to draw his sword again, letting their shame stand as a motivator for future assignments.

Lord Kato has given the Magistrate the bad news and he is not pleased, demanding a finger from the assassin chief. Lord Kato replies that he will seek his punishment from the Minister when the rebellion is over. The furious Magistrate commands him to bring the thief’s wife.

The thief’s wife is suspended, still hooded, from a tree, so that her gender is apparent but her face is hidden. The Magistrate, Lord Kato, and their men stand around her as Jang Sung Baek limps up. Chae Ohk is watching from behind a tree, and is relieved to see him alive and conscious. The Magistrate tells Jang Sung Baek that the squirming bundle is a damo who burned the leper village and directed the massacre of villagers near the rebel camp. He throws his sword to Jang Sung Baek and orders him to kill her, but Jang Sung Baek throws down the sword, telling the Magistrate to kill her himself.

The Magistrate continues to goad him. When Jang Sung Baek says he has already forgotten the damo, the Magistrate demands the supposed Chae Ohk be killed to avenge his fallen comrades, the lepers, and the villagers. Other rebels chime in. Jang Sung Baek drops his cane and picks up the sword, telling the Magistrate to remove the hood. Thinking quickly, the Magistrate questions whether he will be able to kill her if he can see her eyes. Jang Sung Baek flashes back to the damo’s ability to bear pain when he removed the bullet from her shoulder, and he tells them to turn her around so her back is facing him.
Jang Sung Baek looks grim and haunted as he raises his sword to the captive woman
Tears are running down Chae Ohk’s face as she watches, and she shuts her eyes as he brings down his sword, but he has only cut away the sleeve of the hanging woman, so that he can see there is no bullet wound scar. With a second strike, he kills the woman who is not Chae Ohk.

The real Chae Ohk is devastated, flashing back to how he told her they should never meet again in the same breath as he told her he loved her.

Soo Myung finds Jang Sung Baek where he is again brooding in the woods, and asks why he had to swing twice to kill the supposed damo. He answers that he swung once to kill his feelings, and the second time to end her life. He tells her that they will be moving soon.

Chae Ohk is sitting in the woods not far away, looking stricken. She is too upset to notice when the wind blows away the hair tie that she took back from him in the cave. Then she hears a thump as the body is thrown into the woods nearby. She removes the hood, and is shocked to recognize the thief’s wife.

Later, a rebel leads Jang Sung Baek to the spot where the body was thrown, but it isn’t there. He offers to wake the camp for a search, but Jang Sung Baek tells him not to – someone must’ve buried her. As they head back to the camp, he finds Chae Ohks hair ribbon, and asks why she came back, when he already killed her.

At the Left Police Station, Nan Hui and Officer Baek are watching at the bedside of an unconscious Chief Joh. Also present is – surprise! – Hwangbo, looking very much alive, and upset by a message he has just read (presumably the letter Chief Joh left behind). Nan Hui tells him that Chief Joh hung on to see him, and she is hopeful, even though the court physician has said there is nothing more he can do.

Hwangbo steps into the courtyard, where the former thief is weeping in a corner. He rushes up to Hwangbo and begs him to go in search of his pregnant wife. Officer Baek is moved by this, but Hwangbo stares off in another direction and refuses to acknowledge the former thief, even when he shakes Hwangbo and reproaches him for using common people in his schemes. Soldiers pull him away, and Officer Baek promises to calm him down, though he is weeping himself. Hwangbo’s eyes, too, despite his stony expression, are full of tears.

A veiled officer is reporting to the Minister. He is not pleased that disposal of “a useless girl” is all that has been accomplished. The officer reports that Chief Joh is on his deathbed, and the slain spy’s body was removed before Hwangbo could ask questions. The Minister tells him that Hwangbo is sharp, and they should be careful and expect surprises.

Hwangbo is pacing on the Left Police Station terrace, attended by Officer Baek. He wants to see the King, but Baek warns him he will be killed before he gets inside the palace. Hwangbo is frustrated by the lack of other options. Just then Officer Baek spots the damo entering the courtyard, carrying the body of the thief’s wife on her back.

Hwangbo, Chae Ohk, and Officer Baek look on as the thief uncovers his wife’s face, and speaks to her as if she is still alive. He gathers her up, and carries her away, mourning.

Hwangbo and Chae Ohk sit across from each other. Hwangbo says he felt as if he was dying inside the night they parted, and never wanted to see her again. He tells her to go back. If they meet again, she will be one of the rebels to him, and they will have to cross swords. He goes to the door, opens it, and again tells her to leave.
Chae Ohk walks through the door that Hwangbo has opened
She remains seated with her back to him, but says she dreamed a false dream for a moment. She vows to kill Jang Sung Baek with her own hands, and asks Hwangbo to take her back until then. He tells her to go alone. She bows her head and begins to cry. She leaves the room, but stops just outside the door. Hwangbo quietly pulls it shut behind her. They stand sobbing on either side of the rice paper door, covering their mouths with their hands to stifle the sound. Hwangbo finally tells her through the closed door to retrieve her badge, but to him, she is only a damo now.

Boss Jang and the other rebel leaders are standing around a map, planning their assault on the capital city. They will set off explosions at multiple strategic locations to create pandemonium and distract the opposing forces, while they seize the palace. Undercover rebel soldiers disperse through the city to place gunpowder.

Hwangbo sits on the steps of Chief Joh’s house. Nan Hui emerges, and tells him the Chief is the same. Hwangbo blames himself, but Nan Hui points out that he would’ve done the same thing if he had been in her father’s shoes. A message arrives from the palace, excusing Nan Hui from attending the first round of selection due to her father’s condition. It is the day of choosing the prince’s bride – and also of the rebel attack.

However, Nan Hui tells Hwangbo she would like to attend, as observing formalities will help uphold her family honor. Hwangbo tells her Chief Joh would be proud of her. She says that although it is a trivial matter, she was ashamed to face him (because of her father’s letter?), and looks at him hopefully.

Hwangbo seems to know what that’s about, even if we don’t, and tells her that he does not love her, has never regarded her as a woman (Korean for being attracted), and was deceiving himself when he promised to marry her. This is not what she wanted to hear. However, now he thinks he can make a place in his heart for her. He will make an effort. She weeps, and he offers her his handkerchief. Poor Nan Hui. He’d better mean it this time.

Hwangbo and Officer Baek meet. The only clue from the site of Chief Joh’s meeting with the conspirators is his sword. There is no word from Officer Lee (who’s been conspicuously absent for awhile now, and resembled the veiled officer who met with the Minister, but surely not). He’s off searching for evidence somewhere, but Officer Baek thinks he is unlikely to find anything, since the rebel forces are good at cleaning up their traces.

Hwangbo asks after the former thief, who is grieving and drinking. Officer Baek curses the rebel forces, drawing and brandishing Chief Joh’s sword, which is lying on the table between them. Hwangbo notices something on the blade. It is gold from a gold hat button, a very rare commodity that may only be worn by a select group of men. He proceeds to visit each of them, checking out their ornaments. He soon identifies the Minister of Defense, but gives no sign, departing with his face full of thunder as the episode closes.


Related posts: See all Damo and Lee Seo Jin reviews

2 comments to Damo – Episode 13 – Korean drama recap

  • Mara

    Excellent recap and you got me interested in rewatching for the umpteenth time. Damo is the first of my korean dvd collection.

    • Mihansa

      It is beautifully done, on so many levels, isn’t it? Although it’s 10 years old, it can easily hold its own on production values, acting, and overall quality with any more recent drama (though perhaps sageuk characters do not have to be quite so doomed these days). My recaps have doubled in length since I began the series, because there is so much happening in each episode.

      I can see how Damo would spawn a Kdrama collection!

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