Episode 6 of Damo is packed tight with the back story of Boss Jang (Kim Min Joon), as well as developments in Hwangbo’s (Lee Seo Jin) status. Watch it carefully or watch it twice to make sure you catch all the details.
Stop here if you haven’t watched yet.
The episode opens with Chae Ohk (Ha Ji Won) and the thief slipping past the guards at the mountain hideout to meet and report to Officer Lee. He then visits the thief’s wife to reassure her, and sends off a messenger raptor (no puny carrier pigeons here!) to the Left Police Bureau.
The Right Police Commander has taken over Hwangbo’s position as the Left Police Commander, over the protests of his father. The messenger raptor arrives, and the cowardly officer manages to sneak the message off to Hwangbo. Now that they know the location of the mountain camp, he wants to attack immediately, but Hwangbo is after the power behind the gang, so they will wait for more information from the undercover team.
Chief Joh’s daughter Nan Hui also stops by, to give Hwangbo a uniform she has made for him. She tells him, rather bitterly, to give it away or burn it if he can’t use it, then leaves. Hwangbo is shocked by her intensity. For an investigator, he can be pretty obtuse.
Hwangbo is also strictly by-the-book in matters of hierarchy, and has instructed his officers to respect and follow Commander Joh in his new post. However, the former Right Police Commander runs a tight ship, and the officers don’t like him one bit. When they respond vaguely to his questions about the whereabouts of Officer Lee and the damo, he is livid, and orders them off the counterfeit case.
In the forge at the mountain camp, the rebels are working on rifle barrels, but it isn’t going well. Boss Jang discovers a counterfeit coin on the floor, and orders imprisonment and starvation for the man responsible for the oversight.
He is all charm again a minute later, when Chae Ohk and the thief arrive on a tour of the camp. The thief tries to talk his way into the forge, then makes a slip about counterfeit coins. Boss Jang pretends not to understand it, and invites him to check it out, but he declines. The plates are obviously not there.
Boss Jang receives a summons. The thief volunteers himself and the damo to go along, but soon regrets it, as the walk turns out to be long, and the pace brisk. He’s even less thrilled when he realizes their destination is a leper camp. Boss Jang tries to educate him on the limited communicability of leprosy, but he isn’t having any, so Chae Ohk steps up to help him treat sick and injured lepers (romantic co-bandaging of a third party – that’s a new one). His acts of kindness, and his warmth towards her, are starting to have an effect on Chae Ohk.
She continues to watch him closely as he meets with Lee Hak Chul, the leader of the leper village, and formerly the personal bodyguard of his father. Acting on his father’s last wish, the bodyguard took him to the leper camp to study with a wise old doctor, and that is where Boss Jang grew up.
In a flashback we see, as we have long suspected, that he is Jae Hui’s brother. After the horse they were escaping on fell, the bodyguard swooped in and dragged him away. Little Jae Hui on the beach surrounded by scary horse hooves and screaming for her family is etched into his mind, as it is into hers.
As the flashback ends, he asks the bodyguard, “she could still be alive, right?” Wait, what?? Chae Ohk is sitting 10 feet away! Since he already knew all about her when we first saw him, and has expressed regret that “we didn’t get to her first” on several occasions, we thought he knew who she was, but he obviously doesn’t. So what was up with that moonlit courtyard line about living together in the mountains for a long time? A bit forward, 네? Has he just been stalking her all along?
Boss Jang doesn’t seem to hold the abandonment of his sister against Lee Hak Chul. On the contrary, he treats him with great gratitude and respect, using formal Korean, and offering him a drink from his own cup. The former bodyguard presents him with his father’s sword, which he unwraps in front of Chae Ohk. The sword is reputed to have belonged to Hwan Hyun Ki (isn’t that the monk Hwangbo studied with?).
There is a scroll with the sword, and Chae Ohk looks perturbed when she catches a glimpse of it, since it is a proverb her father taught her. She’s the one who suspects the real nature of their relationship.
Meanwhile, in town, Hwangbo is painting diagrams of martial arts moves, and flashing back to a scene of trident spear practice with Chae Ohk. She pronounces her assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the weapon to him, and he says “we think alike.” Then they run through a practice routine side by side.
There’s no indication when this happened, but since they both look extremely pleased with themselves and each other, we’re thinking it was after the courtyard make-up scene, and before Chae Ohk went on the undercover mission. If Damo was an American drama, this would’ve been a lovemaking scene, but companionable martial arts training is just as good (NOT). Or maybe it isn’t a flashback at all, and we are getting a taste of Hwangbo’s fantasy life. Hmm.
This daydream is interrupted by a summons from the General at the Military Command Post. The General shows him a sparring demonstration between his two best men. One of them requests a match with Hwangbo, who effortlessly avoids his blows until he’s able to knock him out cold with a couple of fingers to the solar plexis.
The General wants to create an elite force to be ready for rebel attacks (he is suspiciously certain there will be one). Politics are getting in the way. He wants Hwangbo to train them, but Hwangbo sticks to the book again, and won’t do it without an order from the King. The General refuses to accept that answer and tells him to think about it. He does. We have not heard the last of this, and I have a bad feeling about it.
Back on the mountain the thief distracts the guards, and Chae Ohk sneaks into the forge to search for the counterfeit plates. She finds an ink stick, which reminds her of the proverb, which reminds her of Boss Jang. He’s in his hut, caressing and admiring his new sword, which represents his father’s spirit living on in his heart. Suddenly, he senses something outside.
Chae Ohk is squatting near the hut, flashing back to their moonlit courtyard encounter, and scrawling Hanja in the dirt. Boss Jang comes up behind her and they have a chat. Her side is all in Hanja, which is weird, because he knows she can talk, and she knows he knows. They converse about the proverb, where she learned it, where her father is, and whether his father is living. Thinking of the sword, he says yes, his father is alive. So, not her brother then, Chae Ohk is thinking. Oh-oh.
Back at their hut, the thief teases her about the handsome, charming rebel leader and her obvious preoccupation with him earlier in the day. She snaps that he is nothing but a rebel who will lose his head, and the thief backs off. Privately, she asks herself what good it would do to put a man like that in her heart (especially since there’s already a man in there, right?). Little does she know that he is standing right outside, gazing intently towards her hut.
The next day, the rebel leaders meet to discuss an estate owner who is abusing the peasantry. They decide to raid the estate. The thief stays behind to search Boss Jang’s room, after he issues a personal invitation to Chae Ohk to accompany them. At the estate, the guards are soon overcome, and the owner’s goods are distributed to the villagers. Then soldiers arrive, shooting, and the rebels have to leave in a hurry. Chae Ohk turns her face away as Boss Jang executes the estate owner, and they jump on their horses to race off. The soldiers are close behind, however, and Chae Ohk gets shot in the shoulder and falls off her horse.
Looking back, Boss Jang flashes back to being dragged away from his screaming sister on the beach, and he pauses. The other rebels tell him it’s too late, as she is already surrounded by soldiers, and it looks like they’re right. Chae Ohk tries to identify herself as a damo, but the commander orders the men to shoot her. All of the rebels take off, except Boss Jang, who sees she is about to be killed, and charges back towards the group of soldiers as the episode closes.
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