Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 26
Gil-dong and his family are all together in the safety of the cave stronghold, but it’s like the calm before the storm, and I have a feeling all hell will break loose soon. We’re one step closer to bringing down ultimate karmic justice on Yeonsangun, and the people around Gil-dong are beginning to show their strength. The scene-stealer was definitely little Eorini, about whom we finally get some answers…
EPISODE 26 RECAP
Scholar Song and Yeonsangun are shocked when they learn that Park Ha-sung is Gil-hyun. Expressing their rage at the betrayal, both throw impotent tantrums, Scholar Song at his spy, and Yeonsangun at Jeong-hak, the people who respectively inform them of Park Ha-sung’s real identity.
At the cave, Gil-hyun is finally reunited with Eorini/Sang-hwa, but she doesn’t believe that these strange men are her family. Sang-hwa pushes Gil-hyun away as he approaches her with tears in his eyes, firmly denying that she’s his sister.
Choongwongoon and Mistress Jo discuss the revelation about Park Ha-sung, and she gnashes her teeth, upset that she didn’t recognize Park Ha-sung as Gil-hyun, but Choongwongoon presents a different opinion. He sees it as an opportunity to take down Scholar Song, and to help elevate Jeong-hak in the king’s eyes.
In front of the king, Choongwongoon declares that Scholar Song is the one who betrayed the king by putting a traitor like Park Ha-sung in his midst. Yeonsangun’s eyes turn to Scholar Song, who reels at the unexpected backstabbing from Choongwongoon. The scholar tries to reassure the king that he only had his best interests in mind, and that he is not on the same side as Gil-hyun.
At the cave hideout, the original Amogae Avengers attempt to jog Sang-hwa’s memories by talking about their individual relationships during childhood. Eop-san can’t believe she doesn’t remember him as her handsome neighbor oppa. Ilchung even lets her touch his head because she used to like the scratchy, bristly feeling of his short hair. But Sang-hwa just looks at them all, confused.
While Sang-hwa is sleeping, Gil-dong comes to look in on her, and she wakes as soon as he touches her hand. Affronted, she demands that he not touch her, and he explains to her that they all missed her so much and that he’s been looking for her for a long time.
He shows her the other half of the purple ribbon that she always carries. Just seeing the two pieces together seems to give her some flashbacks of their separation, but the sudden onslaught of the emotions and memories are too much for her. So she yells loudly, denying her memories and any connections with Gil-dong, who looks stricken to hear her say that.
Gil-hyun leads Gil-dong out, and tells him that now they have found her, they have all the time in the world. He tells his younger brother that they should give her time to process and go a little slowly, and not rush her to remember them. Sang-hwa overhears their conversation, and is discomforted by the thought that she could be stuck with them for any longer.
During lunch time, everyone sits in bustling groups, reunited and happy with their families. But Gil-dong sits to the side all alone with a pensive face, and suddenly a mirage of his wife Ga-ryung appears and she begins ladling him porridge soup.
He confides in her his worry about potentially making tears fall from these people’s eyes by not succeeding in his rebellion. But she tells him not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. Her mirage disappears and he’s alone again, and he talks to the empty space where he imagined her to be sitting, wondering where she is.
At the palace, Jeong-hak tells the king that they’re doing all they can go catch the Hong bandit, when Choongwongoon enters with Mori. In order to capture the Hong bandit more effectively, Yeonsangun gives Jeong-hak a promotion to Chief of Police, but also gives Mori the position as Jeong-hak’s right-hand man.
However, Jeong-hak protests, saying that it’s against the social order for a commoner to become an officer. But Yeonsangun tells him that Mori is his best chance at defeating Gil-dong because of his Mighty Child strength, and Jeong-hak has no choice but to acquiesce.
Later when they’re actually carrying out their duties though, Jeong-hak tells Mori that they’ll be going separately, and assigns him to a different region. Jeong-hak and his men head to the mountain that they’ve heard might be the location of Gil-dong’s hideout.
Gil-dong and crew notice the arrival of the soldiers and prepare their emergency plan, although the priestess tells them that these mountains don’t easily let ill-intentioned strangers in. Unfortunately, despite their best attempts at staying inconspicuous, the mothers can’t help it when the babies cry and the sound echoes throughout the caves.
Jeong-hak hears the crying infants and approaches the hideout, getting dangerously close. Just then, Gil-dong lets arrows fly at Jeong-hak’s soldiers to distract them. They take cover and then scramble to pursue the bandits, when they’re suddenly confronted by a local magistrate.
The magistrate tells Jeong-hak that they’ve been hunting on the king’s official orders, suggesting that the arrows were actually friendly fire to cover up for Gil-dong and his men. He goes on further to mislead Jeong-hak by telling him that no one could hide here without him noticing, and the only way for the thieves to escape would be a trail lower down the mountain.
When Jeong-hak leaves, Gil-dong emerges to thank the magistrate and asks why he helped them. The magistrate replies that he also knows what it is to truly care for the people, and that he’s glad Gil-dong taught the cowardly court officials a lesson during the king’s banquet.
Yeonsangun asks for Ga-ryung every night because he’s suffering from nightmares, and as a result, Wolhamae worries for Nok-soo’s continued position as a favored concubine. However, Nok-soo isn’t too concerned because she claims that Ga-ryung can’t possibly handle the depth and darkness of Yeonsangun’s true self.
She calls Ok-ran to her room, and asks why Ga-ryung and she are so close. Ok-ran explains that Ga-ryung mistook her for Sang-hwa because of a purple ribbon she carries. Nok-soo remembers the purple ribbon as well, the one that Gil-dong had when he was first discovered at the gibang with amnesia.
When she’s called into his bedchambers that night, Ga-ryung tells Yeonsangun a story about a flourishing village with a dark secret: In the one damp, dark northern corner of the village lived a small malnourished boy, imprisoned in a dank hut. The prosperity enjoyed by the village was dependent upon this boy being imprisoned.
When they turned twenty, the villagers were given knowledge about the boy’s existence. Although some people left because they couldn’t stand the idea, others stayed because they deemed that the suffering of one child was worth the continued success of their own family and lives. The king listens to her story intently.
At the cave, Eop-san tucks Sang-hwa into bed thinking her to be asleep, but as soon as he leaves, she sits up immediately, determined to go to tell Scholar Song the location of the thieves’ hideout. On her way down the mountain, she experiences several flashbacks that leave her in a cold sweat, but she continues her perilous journey forward. Gil-dong and Eop-san haven’t been fooled as she thinks though, and they follow her surreptitiously.
By morning, Sang-hwa stands outside a breakfast house, almost drooling with wide eyes as the hot food comes out, and the owner takes pity on her and gives her a bowl of soup. Eop-san and Gil-dong watch her from afar and pay for the owner to also give her some meat. Gil-dong’s heart goes out to his little sister as he sees her sleeping on the side of the road, and he wonders where she’s going, perhaps trying to gauge where her loyalties lie.
In the palace, a lesser Heungcheong brings up a complaint against the king for exiling her husband, when all she’s done is to be in service of him. Her eyes radiate with hatred toward the king, who is bemused by this show of insolence, as he ponders the best way to kill her.
Sang-hwa is at last about to run up to Scholar Song, when she spots him acting very friendly with a nobleman. The sight of the man suddenly triggers a memory that leaves her shaking in fear and makes her retreat. In bits and pieces, she begins to recover memories of the extensive brainwashing program that she and the other Geo-in went through.
In a darkened flashback, she remembers: The nobleman using terror of implied corporeal punishment (with a large whipping stick), as he drilled into them their new identities. He force-fed them drugs, wiping their memories of their pasts, including their families and their own sense of self.
When she was first captured, her one wish was to meet her brother, but after countless repetition from this abusive “teacher,” she was taught to fear saying her own name. In the present, she begins to say, “My name is Eorini…” but flinches at the memory of her fear. But it’s enough, and all of Sang-hwa’s memories of being Eorini come back—the ribbon she had ripped to get water for her brother, and how she had been caught while bringing him frozen water from the pond.
She collapses in the middle of the road with her memories regained, and Gil-dong catches her as she falls. She calls him oraboni and tells him that she just went to get him some water, but he was gone. She faints, and Gil-dong breaks down in sobs. He piggybacks her hurriedly to the caves and she comes to when Gil-hyun takes her hand, and she brightly calls him her oldest brother. Gil-hyun’s face lights up, so happy that she’s back to her old self.
Later, Eorini explains the Geo-in brainwashing to the rest of the Hong family, and all the harrowing experiences that she went through. She tells them that the people who were recruited were from the lowest classes, the most marginalized and vulnerable. These people were lost orphans, beaten wives, and impoverished prisoners, and they were taught that if they were brutalized, tortured, or killed, it would be for the good of the nation.
In a parallel conversation going on at the palace, Yeonsangun explains to the lesser heungcheong who complained that she’s actually the jewel of the nation because she’s serving an important function for the land. He continues by saying that citizens who criticize the king can be used as examples to the others, who will now do whatever they can to not end up like her.
So he tells her that her death will be for the prosperity of the nation, helping keep social order intact. After this monologue, Yeonsangun order his soldiers to dismember her and force all of his officials and courtiers to witness her state. Then, Yeonsangun elevates Ga-ryung to a heungcheong, and commands her to come to entertain him that night.
In his bedchambers, the king asks Ga-ryung to retell the story about the lonely boy in the flourishing village. Ga-ryung begins her story, and Yeonsangun soon falls asleep. As soon as he lays his head down on his pillow, Ga-ryung stops her story and approaches him with a steely look in her eyes.
She takes a sharp hair ornament and raises it, ready to strike down on the king’s head to avenge Gil-dong and the lesser heungcheong from that day. But suddenly Nok-soo stays her hand. She doesn’t murmur a word although her expression shows shock.
She drags Ga-ryung out of the king’s chambers, and when they’re safe in her room, she slaps Ga-ryung for her actions and demands to know the truth. Ga-ryung replies that she did tell the truth—her husband was ripped apart by a beast, and that the beast is the king. She finally tells Nok-soo that her husband is Gil-dong, but Nok-soo does not share the knowledge that she knows Gil-dong is alive.
Rumors, circulating posters, and flyers go around the country, spreading opinions that the king is no better than a thief, with his arbitrary taxes, evictions, and punishments. In fact, some of the people think the Hong bandit may be better than the king because he actually watches out for the interest of the people.
News of this gets into Yeonsangun’s ears, and he asks which villages have been the most rebellious in their anti-government rhetoric. Jeong-hak comes forward with a list of regions and villages that have shown insurgent sentiments.
Yeonsangun fixates on one village called Hyangjumok, and orders that the entire village be declared an enemy of the state and commands his soldiers to kill everyone in it. But the people aren’t really thinking about committing treachery against the nation, as Yeonsangun makes them out to be. In the village, the people are unaware of the king’s order against them and they gather at the town square to discuss their grievances, believing that if they brought it up with the king reasonably, he would help solve their problems.
The king’s soldiers suddenly show up and decimate the populace in the village. One man gets away and reaches Gil-dong’s cave, where he pleads for the Hong bandit’s help, telling him how Yeonsangun is using royal soldiers to kill off Hyangjumok to make an example of it.
Gil-dong’s rage returns and he yells “Yi Yung!” in fury, and then begins a plan to help the Hyangjumok villagers. The people in the caves who were all saved by Gil-dong want to help in the fight, but the Hong Avengers tell them to stay back and protect the hideout, because they’ll be going up against the best soldiers in the nation, the king’s personal royal army.
Yeonsangun receives the report from Eunuch Kim that the second wave of his soldiers are approaching Hyangjumok, and he smiles as he watches his musical troupe perform. Smirking, he says to himself, “Now let the Joseon people see what is the greatest power in this land. It is fear.”
On the road to Hyangjumok, the royal forces are confronted by Gil-dong’s small band of fighters, who block the path. The king’s general scoffs at Gil-dong’s meager army composed of lowly gangsters and thieves. They engage in battle, but because the Hong force is outnumbered, less seasoned, and less armed, they’re slowly but surely pushed back. Gil-dong looks shaken up as he sees his brothers take heavy losses—Yonggae and Ilchung are slashed, and Eop-san and Segul are punched to the ground.
Meanwhile, Yeonsangun is rocking out to the drum music that a talented woonpyeong performs for his pleasure. The tempo keeps the pace of the battle going on in the forest near Hyangjumok. From the viewpoint of Gil-dong and his men, there seems to be a never-ending sea of soldiers, while only a few of them are left. The outlook seems dire for our heroes, and Gil-dong steps out in front and tells everyone else to back off, ready to fight the army alone.
But of course they refuse to listen to him. Thinking that this may be their last battle, Gil-dong’s men rally one last time as they make this resolution: “If we die, we all die together, and if we live, we all live together!” To the opposing army they cry, “Let’s all die together!”
Then from the sky, a fleet of arrows rains down on the king’s soldiers, and boulders crush them from above. When Gil-dong looks up, he sees the people from the caves that he saved from the king, coming to save him in return.
Unexperienced as they are, they’re brave about coming to Gil-dong’s rescue because he’s empowered them. A man leading the charge shouts to Gil-dong: “We are here to rescue you this time, General Hong.” So Gil-dong and company move with a renewed fervor in their fight, as the people have come to bolster them, and they emerge victorious.
During his private dance show, Yeonsangun is informed that a rebel army has crushed his forces. Immediately reacting to this bad news, he smashes his glass down, and all the musicians kneel to the ground in collective fear.
Although they are victorious, there have been many casualties on the Hong side, including the one man who led the people into battle to save Gil-dong. With his dying breath, he thanks Gil-dong for letting him live this one day of his life being free to do what he truly wanted.
He dies and Gil-dong weeps, crying for the man to at least tell him his name before he goes. His determination firm, Gil-dong rises to his feet and resolves to make Hyangjumok an independent territory.
I love Sang-hwa. I thought the first child actress playing Eorini was cute, and she did her job well, playing a devoted younger sibling who’s slightly spoiled in a good way under the doting care of her two older brothers and loving father. But it was Sang-hwa who stole the show, the way her brother stole the people (hur). She’s a fierce little munchkin, sticking to her mission with a dedication worthy of admiration, until her memories of Gil-dong and her past life resurfaced.
For me, her brief runaway back to the Sugwidan, her mental breakthrough, and subsequent storytelling of her time as a Geo-in were the highlights of this episode. Thank goodness the writers gave her a semi-plausible background and logical story arc, which made her a much more compelling character in my eyes. Initially when she was introduced, we were put through a tiresome game of cat-and-mouse as the plot continually hinted that she or Ok-ran might be the sister that Gil-dong had been searching for this entire time. I think Ok-ran was purposefully depicted such that she seemed to be the favorite to be The One, because she was naturally gifted, made all the “right” decisions, and also had lost her brother in childhood. Meanwhile, Sang-hwa came with wily social ambitions and actions that seemed selfish, which normally would detract from viewers having sympathy for her. But in my case, I loved that she had a little devil in her because it made her stand out, amongst all the other protagonists who seemed one-dimensional in their reasons for choosing the side of “good.”
Despite still being such a young girl, she displayed actions that made her seem far more intelligent, resourceful and competent than her years. She navigated her way from the mountainside all the way back to Hanyang, and to the doorstep of Scholar Song’s house on sheer perseverance of will. And I guess a little extra help from her big bro, but she didn’t know it! I know that she didn’t really fool Gil-dong and Eop-san by pretending to be asleep, but the fact that she took factors like them noticing her absence into consideration is a testament to her strategic thought process. Gil-dong, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have any strategy in mind, charging like a bull to get his way at this point. He and the Hong brothers always seem to be gathering at that meeting table to discuss military tactics, but so far, I haven’t been too impressed. Engaging in battle head-on with a royal army that you know is more capable and numerous than you are seems to be the wrong tactic to use, and I’m pretty sure Sun Tzu would agree with me on that point.
Gil-dong just gets angry, and then he moves. Even the rescue of the people during Episode 24 wasn’t that much of a thought-requiring operation. It was primarily Gil-hyun who did all the dangerous parts, secretly taking a copy of the palace blueprints, providing the Hong crew with a way into the palace. All Gil-dong did was put on his mask and scare the king. That’s why I’m still scratching my head wondering the reason he was chosen to be the Mighty Child. I wish there was a bit more clarification on that point from the shamaness because I’m not sure if Mori is still a Mighty Child, or if it’s just Gil-dong at this point, and what distinguishes him from the rest of the people. Or maybe that is why he was chosen, because he’s no different from the rest of the people?
The one part that almost got me to tears in this episode was when the people came from the caves to rescue Gil-dong and the Hong brothers when they were in peril of dying at the hands of the royal soldiers. The way the people cheered was uplifting because they looked genuinely happy for the opportunity to lay down their lives to rescue their rescuer. Usually, it’s a one-way street, the hero rescues the people, and they are eternally grateful. But this time, the tables were turned and our hero was in trouble, and it was the people who ended up saving him. I know this streak won’t last for long, especially with Ga-ryung still in the palace under Nok-soo’s watchful eyes, but overall, victory almost seems to be in grasp and Yeonsangun’s absolute reign of terror almost at an end.