We start Episode 3 with a quick recap of the previous episodes and leap right in to where we left off.
Yeo Un has gone to kill his father, Yeo Cho Sang, as required by the Hired Assassins. He is unable to do it, and Chun, who has been watching, throws a dagger at the father’s back. Cho Sang wrestles with Un’s knife and stabs himself with it, and tells his son that he should be the first and last person to die by his son’s hand. (A scene which, btw is in Episode 2 as well, right before the fire and I didn’t recap it well there. So technically, Chun, Un and Cho Sang all killed Cho Sang, it sort of depends on how you look at it.) Un, not surprisingly, is distraught.
Dong Soo is trapped in the burning building with Jin Ju, but Sa Mo comes running in to save them. He braces the burning timber and tells them to get out. Dong Soo is restrained outside, crying for Sa Mo as the building collapses. Sa Mo escapes the burning building just in the nick of time. However, they are both shocked to realize that Dong Soo is able to use his arms in a more normal fashion, so good has come of this near tragedy. (Also, it’s the start of the running dialogue/joke about Dong Soo saying what he is afraid of – this time it’s Sa Mo dying and being alone.)
Dong Soo runs like a freed horse (complete with CGI butterflies), kicking and jumping, suddenly able to move freely. (Run Baek Dong Soo! Run!)
Un, however, is having nightmares about his father’s death. When he awakens, he seems not to remember what happened, just that there was a test he was supposed to take – killing his father. Chun tells him there wasn’t a test, that his father is already dead. When Un demands to know who killed his father, Chun basically says that it’s someone greater than him, and he’ll tell him when it’s appropriate.
Now we meet another of our cast of thousands – a young, noble woman, Yoo Ji Sun (Nam Ji Hyun), who is being told the great family secret. Her great-grandfather was a bodyguard to the princes being held in China a hundred years earlier, and was entrusted with the Plan, She is told that the Plan would allow the armies of Joseon to go straight into China, all the way to Beijing.
We leap over to Lord Hong, where he’s explaining the same thing to his underlings. They can’t believe that it exists, or that it would be any use 100 years later. (I’m with ya!) Lord Hong says that little has changed in the geography of Joseon in the last 100 years (well, he also said we were stupid for thinking that it was useless, but hey!) except around the capital.
Back to the Yoo household, where Ji Sun’s being told that King Hyojong left his instructions to his descendants, but the Plan itself was left to their family to guard. She is shown the other half of the coin as the proof of the existence of the Plan and the agreement. Now it’s her destiny to learn to guard the Plan and serve the royal family (which for a girl sounds rather ominous).
The Crown Prince has the other half of the coin, and knowing that the Plan exists, starts to put together his own plans. And mostly his idea is to gather a trained group of warriors, finding boys among the poor and orphans and raising them. He sends his guard, Im Soo Woong (Jung Ho Bin) out to get Sa Mo started on this project.
Meanwhile, still in China, Gwang Taek is studying martial arts at the monastery, which means it’s time for our fight sequence! This time, Gwang Taek succeeds against 1 monk, so it’s upped to Gwang Taek vs. 3 monks. He loses, but continues to study and document what he’s learned.
Dong Soo is still playing like a freed yearling, when Sa Mo tells him they’ll have to have a doctor make sure he’s okay. Dong Soo has to wear the braces a while longer until he’s healed – better safe than sorry. Sa Mo takes him out to visit his parent’s grave for the first time, and tells him they died as traitors, that when he’s grown up, he should clear their names and put up a headstone.
Dong Soo is set upon by the gang of bullies again, but this time he fights back and beats up on the leader. Turns out the leader is a bit of a coward, and gives up quickly. Jin Ju, however, is thrilled to see Dong Soo doing so well.
Sa Mo heads out to Yeo Cho Sang’s house to contact him, but encounters an empty house and bloodstains. He’s goes up the mountain to where Un sits next to his father’s grave. Un is fairly surprised that someone is so upset about his father’s death, and while Un wants to know who the heck he is, Sa Mo wants to know what the heck happened.
Following Chun’s orders, Un gives Sa Mo a cloth with the mark of the Hired Assassins that he says he found with his father’s body. And, still following orders, he asks Sa Mo what he should do, and Sa Mo offers to take him in.
Needless to say, Un’s arrival causes a little conflict in the household. Dong Soo is put out, to say the least, but is impressed by Un’s sword practicing, asking Sa Mo if he can spar with Un. He’s shot down, being told that Un is a whole lot better at it than Dong Soo.
Back in the assassins lair, Chun has been sitting for 5 days, thinking of the past and particularly of Gwang Taek. (and because we have no other scheduled fights, we get a flashback to the opening sword fight, just to relive the awesome). Gwang Taek is still in China, still studying.
Dong Soo lures Un away to where he has a trap set for him, and then goads him into fighting. Except Un isn’t that stupid, and is also a better fighter. Dong Soo ends up in his own trap, hanging upside down from a tree. Ji Sun wanders by, deep in thought about her destiny with the royal family. When Dong Soo calls her over begging for help, she leaves him there without a word.
Later, both Un and Dong Soo get told off by Sa Mo. Dong Soo says he’ll learn any kind of fighting as long as it means he can beat Un. Sa Mo tells him that training to fight is hard, that most people die before are they really trained, and that those who succeed spend the rest of their lives shedding blood and watching blood being shed. Un taunts him a little and Sa Mo asks if he really wants to learn. Sa Mo leaves them for a while, and Un tells him that he isn’t that bad if he got out of the trap. Dong Soo brags on himself but Jin Ju shows up to burst his bubble, reminding him that she was the one who got him out of the trap.
Meanwhile, Dae Pyo has returned and is gathering up various youngsters to become warriors, starting with a young thief, then a youngster handy with a throwing sling. He suddenly happens across Sa Mo in town and they happily catch up with each other. They then recruit a young man with glasses, Cho Rip, who seems to be a bit of a genius at making tools.
Time for physical training for Dong Soo! While Un gets to practice sword fighting, Dong Soo gets to hold up buckets of stones. Primitive strength training, but not calculated to make Dong Soo any fonder of Un. When Dong Soo complains, Sa Mo doubles the amount of time he has to do it. When he complains more, Sa Mo asks if he’s a quitter to give up so easily.
While Dong Soo is busy complaining, Sa Mo tells them the story of the 5 comrades who had sworn to live and die together. Gwang Taek, Un’s father, Dong Soo’s father, Dae Pyo and Sa Mo had all become blood brothers. Then Dong Soo’s father died, then Un’s father, and they don’t know if Gwang Taek is alive. He tells them it is up to them to become stronger than their fathers to help fulfill their dreams.
Hwang Jin Ki arrives to gather up Jin Ju and the profit from the sale of his items. Dong Soo and Un are outside, starting to get along but just as they are becoming friends, Jin Ju arrives to tell them they should be friends. Dong Soo gets uppity and says he doesn’t just become friends with anyone and stalks off, leaving Un feeling rather alone and insulted. Jin Ju is surprised to be leaving and her father teases her about having a crush on Dong Soo. She denies everything and he just laughs at her.
Lord Hong is brought to the jail where he looks at a prisoner who has been condemned to die. While in jail, this prisoner killed an officer, which gets his fighting skills noted. When asked to demonstrate, the prisoner snatches a sword from the guard next to Lord Hong and slices the jail door apart. He tells Lord Hong that if his life is spared, he will serve Lord Hong, so Lord Hong takes him into his service.
Lord Hong then meets with Chun, and they are still obsessing about the Plan for the Northern Expedition. Chun reports that the Crown Prince has located King Hyojong’s grave and is still looking for the Plan. Chun says the Hired Assassins have also looked for it, so he is fairly sure where the Prince will be looking, and that it won’t be found. Chun puts it bluntly, if the Prince finds it, does Lord Hong want him killed? Lord Hong is not pleased to have things spelled out, and implies that the Prince should die. Chun says all lives, even a king’s, are tiny things. Chun also wants to know who Lord Hong’s new bodyguard is, since he’s quietly lurking there behind Lord Hong. Hong tells him that this is his new guard, and Chun basically tells the guard to chill out a little. (LOL!)
When Dong Soo wakes up, Sa Mo is out, so Dong Soo takes his braces off and goes out. He, Jin Ju and the other kids are going out to beg, but Un stays home sharpening his sword and making a visit to his father’s grave to get the spear that is there.
After a lot of research, the Prince is led to think that he should see Lord Yoo’s house, and one of his guards gets the location, however, this being a bit of a secret, only that one guard goes with him.
Dong Soo and Jin Ju are strolling through the streets, sort of half-heartedly begging and hanging out. Jin Ju is generally annoying Dong Soo by tagging along. They happen to cross paths with Ji Sun, who doesn’t even register their presence, but Dong Soo get all googly-eyed as she passes.
When the Prince and guard come barreling through on horseback, they accidentally run Jin Ju over, sending some of their meal flying. This ticks Dong Soo off and he goes running after them, chasing them down and barring their way. Dong Soo demands that they apologize for knocking Jin Ju over and wasting their food. The guard is ticked off, but the Prince is somewhat amused and tosses him 2 coins to pay for the food, but also thinks the kid reminds him of someone.
The Prince and guard get to the house only to discover that it is derelict. And of course, it’s really a trap laid by In. So it’s the Prince and 1 guard vs. In and a lot of minions. Lots of fighting ensues, and we get to enjoy Oh Man Seuk rocking the sword fight as we end episode 3 with the Prince running to try to escape multiple fighters
– Episode 3 was lighter on action until the end, but introduced more of the characters and set up most of the relationships that carry forward. I thought this episode focused more on Un, which unfortunately showed a few weaknesses in the acting. It’s clear that Un is in Chun’s employ and debt, but it’ll be interesting to see how much he comes to care for the others, especially since Chun himself is often in a grey area as to how he treats other people.