Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 9-10
The good-natured chef shows a different, very powerful side when he steps in to help his first love and her problematic “mother.” That leads to not one, but two romantic triangles when our hero is forced to take drastic measures to protect his undercover identity. As he gets closer to discovering who’s behind the plot to kill his family, our hero finds himself in love for the first time and the object of his affection just may feel the same way about him.
EPISODE 9: “I Like Lord Yul-moo”
While Lord Park’s men point swords at Ssook, Nokdu tumbles out of the palanquin dressed as Lady Kim. Nokdu takes Ssook aside to explain that he was captured on purpose to get into his father-in-law’s house, worried that she’s ruined his plan.
When Lord Park’s head servant asks Nokdu, “Who on earth are you,” he gets slapped. Nokdu scolds the servant for interrupting while motioning for Ssook to get away. Before the head servant can peek inside the palanquin, Nokdu slaps him again and stands in front of it just as Lord Park steps outside.
After reporting that Lady Kim is in danger, the real Lady Kim follows Yul-moo to the government office. When she explains that the officials have been colluding with her father-in-law for ages, Yul-moo just smiles.
Lord Park finds the palanquin empty and wonders what the woman from the widows’ village and Dong-joo have to do with his daughter-in-law’s disappearance. Nokdu shields Dong-joo as Lord Park’s men draw their swords and advance.
When officers from the government office arrive, Lord Park winks as he explains that he’s dealing with a family matter. He’s surprised when the head official announces that there are too many armed men for his story to be true and orders everyone taken into custody.
Yul-moo happens upon the scene just as everyone is led away, with the exception of Nokdu and Dong-joo. The now safe pair jumps apart when they realize that they’re holding hands.
Later, as Nokdu walks alongside the real Lady Kim, Dong-joo reluctantly agrees when Yul-moo points out that they seem close. What they don’t know is that Nokdu needs to be sure that the real Lady Kim wasn’t recognized.
Once Nokdu (now dressed as a man) and Dong-joo are back in their room at the inn, they can’t look at each another. They jump when their hands touch while reaching for their pillows at the same time.
After they’re seated safely apart on their sleeping mats, Dong-joo asks Nokdu why he didn’t leave with his lady. Nokdu is curious to know why Dong-joo was at that house with Yul-moo and gets hit with a pillow.
Upon arriving in Hanyang, Aeng-du refuses to leave without Nokdu and she pulls her father into the city. At the same time, Nokdu shows up at Aseowon (the gibang that serves as the Muweol Corps headquarters) sporting a scar across one eye.
Nokdu sits with a random drunk customer to report that the assassin that he was tailing escaped into the widows’ village. A member of Muweol Corps listens as Nokdu explains that he got his scar in a fight with one of the widows. Nokdu asks his “friend” if he’s ever heard of an assassination corps of women and the spy makes her exit. When Nokdu walks out of the headquarters he just misses Master Hwang.
When Aeng-du wanders off, her father scolds that she’ll never find Nokdu. The girl senses that they’ll find him soon and somehow, father and daughter are hidden in a wagon nearby when the Muweol spy informs Minister Heo’s man that she just saw Nokdu.
While Nokdu’s father and brother share a meal, more Muweol assassins attack but a masked man fights them off. Hwang-tae and Yoon-jo escape out the back door but Hwang-tae hasn’t recovered enough to climb the steep hill. He decides to take an easier path and promises to meet his father at a nearby cave.
Yoon-jo lures an assassin away from Hwang-tae but she’s been badly injured. Hwang-tae comes to her aid but before she can speak, the masked man finishes her off.
At the palace, King Gwanghae and his ministers look down at a dead pig (representing the year of the king’s birth) that was left under Prince Yeongchang’s tree. The king silences Minister Heo, giving Minister Im the chance to implicate the Queen Dowager who’s supposedly keeping company with shamans. To Minister Im’s delight, King Gwanghae puts him in charge of the investigation.
At the brewery in the widows’ village, Ssook informs her team that she received a message that the man with the scar was seen in Hanyang. They discuss the possibility that the still missing Deul-re is on his trail until they’re summoned by the vice-curator to help with party preparations for Lady Kim’s return.
On their way home, Nokdu (dressed as Lady Kim) and Dong-joo run into Yul-moo, who happens to have two horses. Dong-joo has to decide who to ride with, Yul-moo or her “mother”. Yul-moo holds out his hand to Dong-joo and Nokdu does the same, declaring it inappropriate for her to ride with a grown man.
After listening to Yul-moo and Nokdu argue, Dong-joo chooses Yul-moo. Nokdu watches sullenly as a pleased Yul-moo speeds up his horse, forcing Dong-joo to tighten her arms around his waist. Nokdu stops his horse and soon Yul-moo and Dong-joo hear a shriek.
Nokdu is on the ground and claims to have hurt his ankle. Yul-moo isn’t nearly as enthusiastic when he has to ride with Nokdu and both men sigh longingly when Dong-joo rides past them on her horse.
Yeon-geun and the gisaeng smile when Dong-joo enters the village on horseback but they’re aghast at the sight of a sleeping Lady Kim with Yul-moo, her arms around his waist.
After waking Nokdu, Yul-moo and Dong-joo reach out to help him dismount. It’s payback time when Nokdu lowers himself into Yul-moo’s arms, angering Dong-joo and stirring jealousy in Yeon-geun and the gisaeng.
During the meal, Dong-joo gulps down wine while Mae Hwa-soo scowls at Nokdu and Yeon-geun glares at Yul-moo. Jung-sook asks if Nokdu’s family gave him something nice and he hands his rucksack to Yeon-hoon, who nods after seeing its contents.
Ssook and Jung-sook step outside to speak privately with Nokdu, who they learn has never consumed alcohol. Ssook is confident that Nokdu will soon be officially initiated into the Corps and Jung-sook enthuses, “You are almost there. There is no reason for us not to accept you unless you are not a widow.” Uh-oh.
By the time the women return to the “party”, Dong-joo is drunk. The gisaeng accuse Nokdu of hitting on Yul-moo and Yeon-geun whines, “Why does Lady Kim like a stray cat like him?”
Yeon-geun meows and Mae Hwa-soo clings to Yul-moo while Nokdu tries to convince them that they have the wrong idea. When a drunk Dong-joo spills some wine, Mae Hwa-soo warns that she’ll reveal people’s secrets and she proves her friend right by announcing that the gisaeng’s feet stink.
Worried, Nokdu tries to take Dong-joo home but Mae Hwa-soo won’t let him leave until they finish discussing his feelings for Yul-moo. Dong-joo points at Nokdu and admits, “It is true my mother likes someone.”
Nokdu runs to Dong-joo’s side just as the gate to the gibang is pushed open. As the gisaeng press Dong-joo for details, Aeng-du yells, “Honey,” and waves to Nokdu.
Master Hwang and Aeng-du approach the group, prompting Nokdu to confess that he likes Yul-moo. Everyone is shocked when Nokdu kisses Yul-moo.
Yeong-geun passes out and Aeng-du crushes the apple in her hand. Fed up, Dong-joo forces Yul-moo and Nokdu apart and blurts out, “Darn it. I like you!”
EPISODE 10: “Who Do You Like?”
Dong-joo is relieved to wake up at home after dreaming about her confession but when she tries to go back to sleep, a small hand lands on her face. Dong-joo sits up and after seeing Aeng-du asleep next to her, she realizes that it was no dream. Dong-joo runs outside to be sick and overhears some widows gossiping about her fight with her mother over a man.
In their room, Nokdu instructs Aeng-du to call him “Unnie” but she can’t stop calling him “Honey.” When Aeng-du asks Nokdu why he has to be her unnie, he’s forced to tell her the truth, “If people here find out that I am a man, I will be tortured and killed.”
Nokdu next meets with Master Hwang, who can’t believe that his student has been forced to pose as a woman. When Nokdu asks about his father and brother, Master Hwang repeats that they’re both fine (not really) and explains that he sent a letter promising to return with Nokdu.
When Master Hwang wonders if Dong-joo’s confession was meant for him or Yul-moo, he’s asked, “What to you think?” Master Hwang teases Nokdu that if Dong-joo was talking to him, she has horrible taste in men.
A passing Yul-moo catches sight of Nokdu and runs away. Nokdu chases after him and passes a sobbing Yeon-geun and the angry gisaeng. Nokdu catches up to Yul-moo near a pond just as the chef loses his balance. Nokdu reaches out to save him but Yul-moo folds his arms across his chest and falls into the water.
Nokdu corners a shivering Yul-moo, who’s decided to think of him as the mother of the woman that he loves. Nokdu asks Yul-moo what he loves about Dong-joo and is told, “I love everything about her because I am in love with her.”
Yul-moo has to explain love to Nokdu, “Love is like a cough. You cannot hold it back.” It’s Nokdu’s turn to shiver when Yul-moo uses their kiss as proof that it’s impossible to hide one’s feelings. At the mention of his feelings, Nokdu announces that he’s giving up on Yul-moo and walks away. As he walks through the gisaeng house, Mae Hwa-soo purposely bumps into Nokdu while another gisaeng throws water at him.
It’s dark by the time that Nokdu finds Dong-joo sitting on a small bridge. When he smiles at her, Dong-joo hits him and blames him for her humiliation. Dong-joo points out that Nokdu could have come up any number of distractions besides kissing Yul-moo. Dong-joo remembers Aeng-du and wants to know why she calls Nokdu “honey” and learns that she thinks that they’re betrothed. Dong-joo is scandalized by the thought that Nokdu is involved with two women.
Nokdu asks, “Which one of us do you like,” and Dong-joo hotly protests that she’d never like someone who’s involved with two woman and disguised as a woman. Nokdu answers, “Fine, then. Let us go,” but Dong-joo refuses. After Nokdu walks away, Dong-joo angrily asks herself, “Why is he so curious about that?”
When a sleeping Aeng-du wakes up in the morning, she gasps at the sight of a ragged looking Nokdu who waited up all night for Dong-joo. He mumbles, “How could it be me? There is no way. I did not ask because I had feelings for her. I was just curious about why she had said such a ridiculous thing.”
When Aeng-du asks what he’s talking about so early in the morning, Nokdu shouts, “How dare she stay out all night?” Dong-joo wakes up in her cave with a back-ache after sleeping on the ground.
Nokdu has breakfast ready when Aeng-du drags Dong-joo home. Nokdu and Dong-joo avoid each other but end up reaching for the last piece of egg at the same time. When they abandon it, Aeng-du is about to pop it into her mouth but decides to give it to Nokdu, forgetting her promise not to call him “honey”.
Dong-joo suggests that Aeng-du would be better off marrying someone upright and kind, not a useless punk like Nokdu. After Aeng-declares, “He is good enough for me,” Nokdu gives her the last egg.
That night, Nokdu can’t sleep because Dong-joo hasn’t come home. When he hears the signal that there’s a meeting at the shrine, Nokdu grabs a black cloak as the village goes dark.
At the palace, the Queen Dowager is dragged from her quarters and when she sees the covered bodies of her servants, she shrieks, “I do not know anything. What curse? What conspiracy?” The Queen Dowager shouts for her son, Prince Yeongchang, as Minister Heo’s man races to the shrine on horseback.
Minister Im and his allies witness a sobbing Prince Yeongchang being taken away. Minister Im is warned that he could become a target of those who disagree with his plan but he’s not worried.
Nokdu watches as Minister Heo’s man enters the shrine only to exit seconds later, joined by the mysterious visitors. In her cave, Dong-joo can’t sleep and she finally goes home.
Dong-joo follows Minister Heo’s man as he leads one of the visitors to his horse. Minister Heo removes the dark cloak covering his head and Nokdu overhears him explain, “His Majesty purposely waited until I was gone. He has been doubting me ever since the incident that happened on the island.”
When Minister Heo gallops away, Nokdu guesses that he’s the man who ordered the assassination of his family and asks himself, “Why would the King be interested in us?”
At the palace, King Gwanghae recalls being in a village in Gyeonggi province twenty years ago. As he held his newborn son in his arms, the king’s hand inched towards the infant and he thought, “Why did you have to be born on the 19th of November?”
That’s how Yoon-jo found the king as the queen sobbed alone with grief. Later, as Minister Heo knelt before King Gwanghae he was told, “Jung Yoon-jo took my dead son. I want you to get rid of them both.”
In the rain, Minister Heo watched as a sobbing Yoon-jo dug a tiny grave until a cry came from the bundle on the ground. Yoon-jo shielded the newborn when Minister Heo raised his sword and it was then that he came up with the story that Yoo-jo fell into the river after burying the baby. Minister Heo urged Yoon-jo, “Live like you are dead.”
Yoon-jo did just that until he risked a trip to the mainland to get medicine for his sick wife. Unfortunately, he was recognized by Minister Im who then told Minister Heo. That’s when Minister Heo instructed his man to have the Muweol Corps kill Yoon-jo before the king could find him and derail Heo’s plan.
As Nokdu walks home, he asks himself, “Who was that man? And what does the King have to do with it?” As he approaches his door, Nokdu is happy to see Dong-joo’s shoes next to Aeng-du’s.
While running along the river, Minister Heo’s man falls down the bank and discovers a shoeless body near the water.
Realizing that Dong-joo can’t sleep in total darkness, Nokdu offers to light a candle but she won’t allow it. Nokdu remembers Dong-joo’s terror as she slept in prison and when he asks why she’s afraid of the dark, she remembers being in the mass grave.
After Nokdu lights some candles, Dong-joo’s fear lessens and she sees that he covered the windows with their clothes. Dong-joo warns Nokdu not to be nice to her but he announces, “I cannot hide it anymore.” Before he can explain himself, Dong-joo turns around to go to sleep.
As Nokdu watches Dong-joo sleep, he thinks of Yul-moo’s explanation that love is like a cough that you can’t hold back and tells himself, “I am in big trouble.” In the morning, it’s Dong-joo who’s watches Nokdu as he sleeps and she warns herself, “I cannot.”
When Nokdu wakes up and opens his door, he sees Aeng-du playing with the chicks while the ladies of the Virtuous Women Corps prepare to celebrate Dano, the 5th day of the 5th month.
Bok-nyeo explains that the women will wash their hair in iris water (for maximum shine) and then meet men at the swing. Soon-nyeo notes that of course the widows won’t be involved but it doesn’t dampen their enthusiasm and they chant, “Dano, Dano, Dano.”
Nokdu invites Dong-joo to joins him at the market to ride the swing, adding that there’s something that he needs to tell her. He’s disappointed when Dong-joo refuses, “Hearing it will be pointless.”
When Nokdu asks if Yul-moo is the reason that she won’t hear him out, Dong-joo tells him, “Yes.” As Dong-joo walks away, both she and Nokdu look sad.
Yul-moo offers swordsman Park Dan-ho a taste of a dish that he’s cooking. When Yul-moo sees a small shadow, he finds Aeng-du with her mouth open wide. Soon, she’s eaten practically his entire dish but when Yul-moo offers Aeng-du the last piece, she asks him to pack it for her brother before correcting herself, “Sister!”
Nokdu’s alcohol-free existence ends when he gets drunk while drinking with Ssook’s team. As Ssook, Yeon-hoon and Jung-sook watch Nokdu weave his way home, he falls into some muddy water.
Dong-joo is surprised by Nokdu’s condition when he enters their room to grab a towel so that he can wash up. It’s dark by the time a clean and bare-chested Nokdu thinks of all the times that Dong-joo ignored Yul-moo.
Yul-moo walks Aeng-du to the widow’s village and explains that he can’t enter because only women live there. Yul-moo freezes when Aeng-du grumbles, “That is why…my brother became my sister.”
Nokdu hasn’t bothered to cover up before entering his room to tell Dong-joo, “I do not like anyone.” When asked why he told her, Nokdu explains, “I like you. That is why.” Nokdu kneels in front of Dong-joo to argue that she likes him, not Yul-moo, “He might be looking at you, but you are not. You are looking at me. Is that not true?”
After Dong-joo exclaims that she knows nothing, her eyes widen in surprise when Nokdu kisses her. Dong-joo doesn’t pull away when Nokdu gently cups her face in his hands to kiss her again.
The door is thrown open before their lips can meet and Dong-joo and Nokdu gasp when they see a furious Yul-moo, who now knows Nokdu’s secret.
There were quite a few clues dropped in these episodes as the palace drama picks up steam. The presumed dead son of King Gwanghae was born on November 19th and since Nokdu just had a birthday close to Dano, the 5th day of the 5th month, whose son is he? It’s possible that Yoon-jeo lied about Nokdu’s birthdate to protect him because the palace is certainly a dangerous place, just ask the Queen Dowager and her son, Price Yeongchang.
In addition to the birth information, we learn that Minister Heo was the one who ordered the assassination of Yoon-jo and his family. With more information about the night that King Gwanghae’s son was born, it’s clear that he believed that the baby was dead but he wanted Yoon-jo dead to protect some kind of secret surrounding the birthdate. As Minister Im makes his move to remove the Queen Dowager and Prince Yeongchang from the palace, wouldn’t the king’s legitimate son strengthen his position? It appears that Prince Yeongchang is King Gwanghae’s younger half-brother and without an heir, the boy becomes his likely successor. Could that be why Minister Heo, the only other person who knows that the king’s son survived, wants Yoon-jo and family dead? Minister Heo and Minister Im belong to two warring factions who have definite ideas about who should succeed King Gwanghae and their fight is just getting started.
Somehow, Nokdu’s father poses a serious threat to Minister Heo’s plan. Who was the mysterious masked man who fought off the latest wave of Muweol assassins and who sent him? Along with just about every other character, there’s more to Yoon-jo than we know, and that probably includes Nokdu’s brother, Hyung-tae, as well.
Yul-moo really made his presence known from rescuing Nokdu and Dong-joo to stealing some time with Dong-joo by providing horses for the trip home. There was his awkward kiss with Nokdu, the budding friendship with the lover of food, Aeng-du, and his discovery that Nokdu is not only a man, but his romantic rival. Yul-moo caught them almost kissing! It’s been hinted that Yul-moo is a powerful and possibly dangerous man. Does anyone else think that the body near the river could turn out to be the missing pervy aristocrat? He hasn’t been seen since the night that Dong-joo arrived on his doorstep and we know that Yul-moo had something to do with his disappearance.
Yul-moo is definitely powerful enough to get the government officials to overlook their long-standing association with Lord Park and arrest him. What will that mean for Nokdu, a man living as a woman in a widows’ village? I’m guessing that Yul-moo will be forced to keep Nokdu’s secret in order to protect Dong-joo’s reputation, after all she’s been living with a man under everyone’s nose. Aeng-du will likely stay on as their roommate to keep things proper but goodness, her slips of the tongue are nerve wracking.
As much as I enjoyed the blossoming romance between Nokdu and Dong-joo, their kiss wasn’t my favorite moment. That belongs to Aeng-du, who told Dong-joo that Nokdu was good enough for her while looking at him like he was a delicious dish. Park Da-yeon as Aeng-du is a real scene stealer and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her going forward. Light moments like these become more important as the story heads into darker territory and romantic angst. And of course, there’s always the obligatory scene with Nokdu’s bare torso to look forward to.