Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 25
Get ready to feel tons of gratification at once, because Team Gil-dong is finally taking some major steps forward. While every move is being carefully and strategically planned, the king is making things quite easy by creating his own demons, and with those demons becoming Gil-dong’s allies, the tide turns drastically as Gil-hyun finally makes the checkmate move he’s been planning for a long time now.
EPISODE 25 RECAP
The king’s banquet is interrupted by silhouettes lining the rooftop in plain sight. It’s
Joseon Batman Gil-dong and his Hong bandits, there to seek revenge. Gil-dong calls out to Yeonsangun with his given name, Lee Yung, and smoke bombs go off as Gil-dong majestically flies down with his cape flowing in the wind (lol).
The king is urgently escorted away as the Hong bandits fight off the guards and ministers in hazy visibility. Gil-hyun hears the commotion inside the palace and orders his guards to protect the king. After closing the gates, he stops and shows the slightest of smiles.
As the king is carried away by his loyal eunuchs, another smoke bomb goes off in his way. Gil-dong swiftly fights off the guards and eunuchs in the smoke, leaving the king completely exposed. The smoke clears, and Gil-dong smirks at the scared king before riding off on his horse. The disdain provokes the king to jump on a horse to chase Gil-dong, and he vows to capture the bandit with his own hands.
Gil-hyun orders his disguised guards to divide into two teams and meet back up at the north gate. Gil-hyun’s team frees the rebellious descendants, and the other team frees the imprisoned musician mothers, whose children have been safely taken care of under Gil-dong’s care. They come to rescue the prisoners while Ga-ryung is visiting Ok-ran, and she can barely believe it when the guards announce that they are the Hong Hero’s people.
She convinces Ok-ran to join them, and as they run away, she remembers Sang-hwa. She tells the guard that she will join them after finding Sang-hwa, and he warns her that she must meet them at the north gate within the hour. She promises to be there and searches the palace for Sang-hwa, who we now know to be the real Eorini.
The guards enter the palace to find the ministers passed out on the ground with signs around their necks labeling their crimes. They are accused of irresponsible flattery and for selling out their friends, all of which have turned the king into a tyrant. The guilty ministers are all sprawled out on the palace grounds, and it’s an amusing sight.
Yeonsangun chases Gil-dong on horseback onto a hill and confronts him about his true identity (finally, the intro scene of the first episode!). He asks if Gil-dong is a son of a royal family of Goryeo (the previous ruling dynasty) or an indignant son of a concubine. Gil-dong laughs and clarifies that he’s simply the son of his father, Amogae, a slave who was in the lowest class in Joseon.
At this, Yeonsangun laughs and says that this is impossible — there is no way for Gil-dong to have come from such a lowly person. Gil-dong reciprocates the doubt and asks how the son of heaven could become such an ignoble person.
A disguised guard leads the palace maids through the palace toward the north gate, but Ok-ran hesitates because Ga-ryung has not returned. She tries to delay the guard, but he says that they’re out of time. The guard surreptitiously bows to Gil-hyun as he leaves to carry out their mission.
Back on the hill, Gil-dong tells Yeonsangun that his parents gave birth to him, but he was made to be like this because of someone else: the king. He lived and died as a merchant, “Footstool,” and a thug. It was a boring and simple life, but he says, “The day you broke my body, the tears of the people flowed over me — realigning my bones and sewing together my ripped skin. So if you want to stop me, you need to stop. If you stop, I could return to my ‘Footstool’ life.”
Gil-dong smirks and rides off again, and Yeonsangun chases after him into a trap. He’s faced with a line of archers with their bows drawn and arrows pointed right at him. He takes out his sword to intimidate his enemies, but they remain unfazed. Then, from behind, a person comes to defend the king. It’s Gil-hyun, and he plays the role of a loyal servant as he tells the enemies to kill him off first.
It’s all a part of the plan, as we see Gil-dong and Gil-hyun mirroring each other’s slight smiles at this plot. Gil-dong praises the loyal servant and tells the king that they will meet again. Gil-dong and his rebels leave, and the king’s body goes limp on his horse. Gil-hyun rushes to his side to fulfill his role as the “loyal servant.”
The king returns to the palace with Gil-hyun’s support and looks peeved when he sees Scholar Song there to greet him. Scholar Song asks the king why he was not notified about Gil-dong’s escape, and the king erupts that he’s not obligated to report all of the royal issues to Scholar Song. The king adds that only Gil-hyun — not Scholar Song or anyone else — was there to protect him today.
Scholar Song then gets to the real issue of how Gil-dong was able to infiltrate the palace. He suspects that there must be a traitor inside the palace walls — someone close the king, someone the king trusts. Gil-hyun looks worried that he’s been caught, but Scholar Song targets another person: Nok-soo.
When Nok-soo tries to enter the king’s quarters later that night, Eunuch Kim blocks her way, saying that the king wants to be alone. She returns to her room and wonders why she’s no longer welcomed at the king’s bedside. The king manically thinks back to Nok-soo’s suggestions about keeping Gil-dong alive, and the seed of doubt begins to grow. He refuses to believe that Gil-dong is the son of a lowly slave and that Nok-soo would try to save such an unworthy person, and he can only laugh hysterically in disbelief.
Led by the Hong bandits, the prisoners arrive at the underground alcove, and the leader of Hong’s Descendants walks up to Gil-dong in disbelief. He’s relieved to see Gil-dong alive and cheers that they’re all safe now. The ladies of the alcove bring the babies to the musician prisoners, who emotionally reunite with their young children.
Back at the palace, Ga-ryung and the rest of the musicians return to their cluttered room, and Ga-ryung proudly thinks to herself that while her husband is not alive, there are people carrying out his will. She promises to take Sang-hwa out to join his people. Her thoughts are interrupted by Ok-ran, who enters the room and explains that she couldn’t leave without Ga-ryung. Ok-ran says that she will beg Nok-soo for forgiveness and seems to trust that Nok-soo will be merciful, but Ga-ryung is doubtful.
Sang-hwa returns to the room, and Ga-ryung immediately approaches her with affection. Sang-hwa finds Ga-ryung’s sudden change of heart strange and turns to Ok-ran. She offers to beg Nok-soo with her, and they leave together under Ga-ryung’s warm gaze. Outside, Sang-hwa overhears the maids and the eunuchs gossiping about the infiltration and seems to be keeping note of their words.
Still in his frantic state, Yeonsangun asks Eunuch Kim if the palace servants all saw him flee from Gil-dong. Eunuch Kim tries to convince the king that there are more important issues at hand, like fortifying the security of the palace, but the king is fixated on keeping a tight lid on what rumors escape the palace walls.
In the king’s court the next day, the king provides the ministers with a necklace of secrecy that reads: “The mouth is the door to disaster. The tongue is the blade that will cut the body. If you close your mouth and keep your tongue deep inside, then the body will be comfortable and become stronger.” He tells the ministers to always keep these words in mind.
To prove his commitment to secrecy, the king orders a disloyal eunuch to be beheaded in front of the ministers and other guards. They look away before the beheading, but the king says that anyone who looks away will also be subject to the same punishment. In their downtime, the guards complain about carrying out the king’s cruel murders. They’re tired of it, they claim, adding that they think they’ll go crazy if they continue on like this.
Gil-hyun writes to Gil-dong about the exhausted guards who do not want to kill any more people. Following the king’s orders, they’ve been forced to hit, cut, and crush hundreds of people. They’re human too, so they can only withstand so much cruelty. Gil-dong crumples the letter and addresses the king, “If you don’t stop, then my powers will only grow.”
Nok-soo tells Ok-ran that she did not intend to let her die, since Ok-ran has loyally served her up until now. She simply wanted to remind them of who holds the power to decide whether they live or die. Both Ok-ran and Sang-hwa thank Nok-soo and acknowledge her authority. They’re interrupted by a message that the king has summoned Nok-soo, so she heads off to prepare.
Nok-soo gets pampered by a bath, and the king silently enters the room. As he dries her hair, he asks to confirm that Nok-soo knew Gil-dong before she entered the palace. She opens her eyes at this, and he looks at her accusingly.
Lying prostrate in front of the king, Nok-soo insists that she only knew of Gil-dong when he visited the gibang as a merchant. He doubts that this is the extent of their relationship, since she tried on multiple occasions to save his life. He suspects that Gil-dong is the man that she gave her heart to. She remains silent as her eyes fill with tears, and his sad eyes fill with tears of betrayal. Upon leaving the room, Nok-soo collapses into Wolhaemae’s arms, still shivering in fear.
Ga-ryung enters the musicians’ quarters to find a sleeping Sang-hwa, and she confirms that she’s Eorini after seeing her sleep with the purple cloth in hand. She tells sleeping Eorini that she reminds her of her husband and that she’ll get her out of the palace.
Gil-hyun flagellates himself in front of the king by slapping himself and asking the king to punish him for letting the bandits into the palace under his watch. The king tells him to stop punishing himself, adding that Gil-hyun is the only person he can trust. He concludes that only Gil-hyun is capable of loyalty, seeing that he willingly shielded the king against the enemy.
The king decides to give Gil-hyun one more chance and offers to give him an army to capture Gil-dong. Gil-hyun thanks the king for this opportunity before asking for the authority to choose his army, since loyalty matters more than numbers. The king agrees and grants this power to Gil-hyun.
Scholar Song scolds Gil-hyun for not disclosing Gil-dong’s escape to him, and Gil-hyun acts like he was just a scared loyal servant who feared for his life if he disobeyed the king. He’s still on Scholar Song’s good side though, since defending the king in front of his enemies gives him extra brownie points.
Gil-hyun suggests that in order to defeat Gil-dong this time, they must plant one of their own in their enemy’s forces. He requests to use a Geoin from the Sugwidan for this, and he vows to uproot the traitor in the palace and kill Gil-dong. Scholar Song asks who would be suitable for such a task, and Gil-hyun suggests an unsuspected traitor, like a young lady.
Scholar Song suggests this to the king, and the king follows along with the plan. He announces to the lowest ranked musicians that he’s heard about their gossip and their yearning to go outside the palace walls. Sang-hwa gets targeted for always visiting her mother, and the king decides to kick her out of the palace. Seeing Sang-hwa in danger, Ga-ryung also admits to the crime of wanting to go outside the palace, but the king justifies her innocence by praising her open confession. So Sang-hwa is dragged out on her own.
Ga-ryung worries about Sang-hwa, but it appears that she’s not locked up in the prison. She’s released from the palace, and as she walks out, we get a quick flashback of her conversation with Scholar Song. He explained that she would be kicked out of the palace for a trivial matter and that someone from the enemy’s side would approach her. If she completes her duties, then he promised to grant her wish of living quietly outside the palace.
Sang-hwa gets on her way, and sure enough, a guard whispers that he’ll follow her. She does, and he leads her to a figure with his back to her. It’s Gil-dong, and he turns around to greet her. She only recognizes him as the battered prisoner she gave water to, and not as her older brother. Gil-dong speaks to her formally, which creates a distance between the supposed sister and brother. He approaches her and takes her hand, vowing to protect her now. Hmm, curious.
Gil-hyun walks in on the complaining guards, who all fall to their knees to beg him not to report their dissatisfaction with the king. But Gil-hyun is there to introduce someone who’s been wanting to meet them: It’s Gil-dong, and the guards marvel at the appearance of the legend himself.
Gil-dong sits down and explains that the underground citizens are those who have been abandoned by the nation and need protection. He knows that these guards have beaten and killed countless people, and he asks if they will continue to do so or choose to protect the people instead. He also knows that joining his side is an irreversible act, but he says that this is the last chance for them to live like humans. If they don’t join, they will have to continue killing innocent people. At that, the guards stand up one by one to join Team Gil-dong.
Jeong-hak continues his investigation on Park Ha-sung, and he speaks with a local in the hills where Park Ha-sung lived. While the local doesn’t know the names, he knows that a grandfather lived with his grandson years ago. Jeong-hak asks when the grandson left, and the local tells him that the grandson died. The illegible grave belongs to that very same grandson, Park Ha-sung.
Gil-hyun brings his Team Gil-dong army to the king as his selection of loyal servants. The king looks confident in Gil-hyun’s choice, and the army takes a knee to proclaim good fortune and a long life for the king. The king buys it all.
Jeong-hak walks urgently, telling his minion that they must notify the king immediately about Park Ha-sung. But then he wonders… if he’s not Park Ha-sung, then who is he?
To answer that question, Gil-hyun visits Jeong-hak’s home, and Madam Jo greets him as Park Ha-sung. He says that he wanted to see his friend before embarking on his long mission, but Jeong-hak is not home. Madam Jo welcomes him inside the home anyway, treating him to tea and once again asking that he remain close with her son.
Gil-hyun interrupts her and delivers a gift, a switch created by a branch that his younger brother retrieved in their youth. He says that he was reminded of it when Jeong-hak talked about his slaves. He admits that he also whipped with a switch many times in his youth in place of someone else. He gets up and addresses her as Madam (or literally “Wife”), wishing her a long life so that she can witness what happens in the world. With that, he bows and leaves her in confusion.
As Gil-hyun leaves, Choongwongoon enters the home. Gil-hyun bows with familiarity, but Choongwongoon doesn’t remember him. Gil-hyun says that they’ve met in close proximity before — in a cold, dark, and scary place. Gil-hyun tells him to think about it carefully before leaving. Choongwongoon thinks he’s crazy, but then he remembers when Gil-hyun wished him to the depths of hell before he went off to exile.
Madam Jo opens up the gift and finds a branch from an apricot tree. It’s a strange gift, but the white dots on the branch remind her of the errand she tasked Gil-dong with in his youth. She had sent him on a death mission to bring back a branch from a very specific apricot tree while carrying meat through a tiger-infested forest, but he had actually returned with the branch. She finds the coincidence unsettling.
Gil-hyun prepares to leave the palace with his troops, and the king watches them leave with pride and confidence. Just as they leave, Jeong-hak reaches the palace to find his mother and Choongwongoon waiting for him. They tell him that Gil-hyun came to visit, and Choongwongoon says that he remembers Gil-hyun showing contempt for him when he was imprisoned for exile. Then, Madam Jo shows her son the branch and says that Gil-dong was the only person she ever ordered to retrieve an apricot tree branch.
All the pieces come together, and Jeong-hak realizes that Park Ha-sung is Gil-dong’s older brother, Gil-hyun. Madam Jo seethes with anger and screams upon this frightening realization.
Jeong-hak rushes to the king and begs that he withdraw the troops, since Park Ha-sung is Gil-dong’s older brother. The king doesn’t seem to believe him, and they’re suddenly interrupted by an arrow that flies right past the king and into a pillar. It has a note attached, and it’s from Gil-dong: “Did you think I was talking nonsense? I told you that if you don’t stop, I will become stronger and more powerful. The time I needed to turn your soldiers into my warriors was one hour. One hour. Thanks to you, I gained faithful warriors.”
The king rips up the letter with his teeth, making him look like a madman. With his bloody mouth, he orders Jeong-hak to capture his army before they leave Hanyang. They deploy the troops to chase the rogue army, but it’s too late. Jeong-hak reports that they sent his soldiers, but Gil-don’g soldiers had already disappeared.
Gil-hyun arrives at the underground hideout, and he’s welcomed by Gil-dong and his beloved hyung-nims, who embrace him and celebrate his long-awaited return. They turn to the soldiers who then bow to Gil-dong, and Gil-dong welcomes the soldiers into the brotherhood. The hyung-nims also welcome them with hugs, and Gil-hyun tells his brother that these people came because they put their trust in him. Gil-dong looks at their new crowd and nods.
At the palace, the king throws a fit and convulses in anger. He’s baffled that Park Ha-sung is actually Gil-dong’s older brother, and Jeong-hak doesn’t seem to be over that realization either.
Gil-hyun looks around at their new underground home and spots Sang-hwa. He tears up and approaches her, calling her Eorini. She doesn’t respond to that name and tries to explain that she’s been kicked out of the palace, but he doesn’t care and hugs her. She claims that she’s not Eorini, but he ignores her claims and takes her hands, asking how lonely she must have been. Gil-dong watches this from afar with sorrowful eyes.
Wait, so is she Eorini or not? I think I’m convinced that Sang-hwa is Eorini, especially with that purple ribbon confirmation. And I do like the idea of Eorini having more of a complex character arc. Like Gil-hyun, she’s been brainwashed by Scholar Song, but she’s been fully and properly brainwashed to the point that she doesn’t recognize her brothers. Is it the childhood trauma that induced this memory loss? Or maybe she believed that she was abandoned? Gil-dong seems to understand that he needs to be gentle in coaxing her memories to return, and I wonder how he’s keeping it all together. Eorini has always been his Achilles heel, and I’m a little surprised that he didn’t completely break down at the sight of his sister. Either he’s matured, orrrr it’s not his sister. Okay, I have to stop.
Beyond the sister identity confusion, this was a fun and rewarding episode. I do enjoy watching Yeonsangun suffer from all the karma that comes from killing innocent people. But at the same time, as much I love to hate Yeonsangun, I actually feel bad for him. Even with his extreme cruelty, Kim Ji-suk’s portrayal of Yeonsangun’s loneliness evokes sympathy. That’s been the underlying theme in the king’s character — his crippling loneliness that partially explains his erratic behavior. More than ruling his nation, he’s concerned with interpersonal trust with those closest to him. The necklace of secrecy he gave to the ministers like some chastity ring is just an illusion of trust. His pathetic desperation to have people respect him makes his such a sad and tragic character. On top of that, his rage and cruelty alienate his followers, which makes everything seem like low-hanging fruit. It’s almost too easy for Gil-dong to steal the people from him.
I loved that Gil-hyun was the star of this episode. Having mastered the art of hiding his identity, he was at the heart of all the gratification I felt while watching. His chilling and subtle reveal of his true identity to Madam Jo has to be my favorite part of this whole episode. I was half-scared and half-hoping that she would realize his real identity during their conversation, but I think I like how they were left a few steps behind. And by the time they put the pieces together, Gil-hyun didn’t care about preserving his identity anymore.
With the siblings supposedly reunited, we’ve only got one person left to save. Based on the first episode, we already know how Ga-ryung will be used as bait, but I wonder if she’ll be able to navigate her way around the palace to be more than a damsel in distress. Her character always had so much potential, and it’d be a waste if we don’t seem more of her fierce side in these last few weeks. This show has been giving us a lot of delayed gratification, and I hope that applies to Ga-ryung too. Instant gratification is great, but delayed gratification almost tastes like sweet revenge. You can just tell that Gil-hyun is getting a taste of it right now.