October 16, 2012

Damo – Episode 4 – Korean drama recap

In Damo Episode 4,Chief Joh's daughter, watching unhappily as Chae Ohk and Hwangbo meet in the courtyard; remarkable coincidences and timely arrivals abound. Chae Ohk (Ha Ji Won) and Hwangbo (Lee Seo Jin) make some progress with their communication issues, and the Left Police devise another undercover plot to infiltrate the counterfeiting gang.

SPOILER ALERT: Stop now if you haven’t watched yet.

The episode opens with Chae Ohk leaving the Left Police Bureau, over the protests of her teammates. She sits in the rain outside the inn where she awaits her transfer orders, flashing back on her history with Hwangbo, and drinking heavily.
Damo Ha Ji Won, looking very unhappy, drinks from a stoneware bowl in front of a thatched cottage;
Hwangbo and his officers visits the Right Police Bureau to meet up with his boss, Chief Joh Seh Ook (Park Yeong Gyu). While they are waiting for him, Hwangbo picks a jurisdictional fight with the Right Police Chief over his unfair torturing practices. Would that be in contrast to the reasonable torture we saw Hwangbo himself supervising in Episode 3?

Geneva Convention issues aside, this is pretty impolitic of Hwangbo, given their previous conflicts. Luckily, Chief Joh comes along just then and scolds the Right Police Chief, who turns out to be his estranged son. Dad doesn’t like his son’s ambitiousness, and we begin to understand the hostility between Left and Right Police Bureaus. The Right Police Commander doesn’t appreciate his father’s all too obvious preference for Hwangbo.

Chae Ohk’s partner, Officer Lee, suggests that he and Hwangbo stop at an inn for a drink before returning to the Left Police Bureau. This is the very inn where Chae Ohk is staying, as Officer Lee well knows. They arrive just in time to see the former damo fuming in frustration as a pair of men sexually harass and prepare to abduct a mother and her daughter. When she is recognized as a police officer, she has to deny it.

Hwangbo realizes she really has to be a damo, tosses her badge to her, and she delivers the crotch kick we are all longing to see and arrests the offenders. Later, another officer pays off the offenders AND the victims, and we realize the whole thing was a setup planned by Officer Lee to get Chae Ohk back to the Left Police.
over her shoulder, we see Lee Seo Jin gazing affectionately at Ha Ji Won as he touches her face;
That evening in the courtyard, Hwangbo approaches Chae Ohk more like a lover than an authoritarian mentor, and gets a response more to his taste. Breakups and reunions are frequent in Korean drama, but this has to be the briefest breakup ever!

Chief Joh entertains an influential visitor, who proposes a marriage between his son and Chief Joh’s daughter, Nan Hui. Yes, you guessed it, she’s the woman of the parasol hat. Her father broaches the topic with her, but soon discovers that she prefers someone else. Chae Ohk arrives with the tea just in time to overhear outside the door. It can’t be a surprise, but it is not happy news for her.

Thanks to the “Song of Devotion” (see Episode 3 recap), we understand that Chae Ohk doesn’t think she’s good enough for Hwangbo. Otherwise we might be really puzzled by her reaction, since Hwangbo has stopped hiding his feelings behind his position, and he seems pretty essential to Chae Ohk’s happiness, too.

Meanwhile, Hwangbo has sent for the thief, now a slave, with a proposal for him to infiltrate the smuggling gang. The thief strikes a hard bargain, but eventually agrees, and is thrown in with the prisoners from the warehouse raid.
gang members and the undercover police spy in the Left Police Bureau jail;
Chae Ohk has been invited to a meal at the home of the herbalist, who wants to make sure she has no plans to marry his smitten son. She reassures him, but this reminder of her unsuitability for a respectable marriage is not a self-esteem builder.

After discouraging the herbalist’s son, Chae Ohk goes to see Hwangbo. She volunteers to infiltrate the gang, since all the other police officers are already known to them. This threatens to re-ignite their old argument, but Hwangbo checks himself, and Chae Ohk articulates her low regard for her own value, and how helping him is her one purpose in life.

I have trouble buying Chae Ohk’s self-abnegation, not only because I’m a 21st century woman, but because it’s wildly inconsistent with her self-assured handling of police matters. She is quite touching and earnest, however, and Hwangbo finally seems to get that his overprotectiveness is bringing her down. She asks him to “let her breathe” (oddly reminiscent of a conversation in Lovers, a later Lee Seo Jin drama). They hug and cry, and he lets her go, but tells her she must return alive. Given the day she’s had, and the depressive hopelessness of her speech to Hwangbo, we wonder whether she’s sending herself on a suicide mission to leave him free for a better marriage.

Meanwhile, Boss Jang’s magistrate cohort pressures his female sidekick to kill off the captive gang member before Boss Jang raids the Police Bureau to rescue him. The sidekick isn’t happy about this, but Boss Jang’s safety is at stake, so she takes poisoned food to the jail for the prisoner’s dinner. What do you know – Hwangbo, Chae Ohk and the slave have also planned a poison incident for the very same meal!
Lee Seo Jin, Ha Ji Won and the undercover slave discuss their plans at a table in the Left Police Bureau;
There’s a mix-up about the food, but it all goes off as planned anyhow, cementing the relationship between the undercover slave and the other prisoners. When the slave picks the lock to escape, the gang member is anxious to accompany him and confront the former colleagues who tried to kill him. They manage to sneak into a corpse wagon, but a guard notices their suspiciously non-bare feet on the way out and holds a torch to them to be sure they’re dead.

The magistrate who ordered the poisoning tries to stop Boss Jang (Kim Min Joon) from his nighttime raid on the Left Police Bureau, telling him his friend is already dead. Boss Jang grasps the implications of this immediately, and the magistrate offers no denials, telling him he was too important to risk in a rescue raid.
Boss Jang and several of his comrades stand, dressed in fighting clothes ans masking scarves, framed by the gateway in a stone wall;
Really, we think? Just who is this guy, anyway? Defiantly, Boss Jang goes on the raid anyway to retrieve his comrade’s remains. His men (and one woman) are already crouched on the rooftops when one of the escaping prisoners cries out in footburned agony. Men swoop in from every side and the episode ends.


It took me awhile to figure out that song lyrics in KDrama can be an adjunct to the script, illuminating thoughts and motivations that aren’t expressed in dialogue. Since they aren’t usually subtitled, you may have to go looking for lyrics separately to get the full picture. Or you could learn Korean, but googling is probably faster :)

Confusingly, Chae Ohk is referred to by her personal name in the subtitles, while Hwangbo is a family name (his personal name is Yoon, but only his mother calls him this). If you listen to the dialogue, you will realize Hwangbo is addressed by his title rather than his name when someone of lower rank is speaking to him. Since Chae Ohk is of low status, her family name is never used. She is usually called Ohk-ah by her colleagues, the personal syllable of her name + ah (아), the suffix used when addressing someone by name in banmal.

See all Damo and Lee Seo Jin reviews

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