We return to the scene of Dong Soo’s first test at training camp – swimming from an island to the shore. While Un and the others swim ahead, Dong Soo has gone back to help Cho Rip ashore. Dae Pyo tells him that anyone who got assistance is eliminated. Dong Soo retorts that elimination is better than death.
Dae Pyo asks if he thinks this training is a joke. Dong Soo insists that if letting a comrade die is being a warrior, he doesn’t see the difference between that and being an assassin. And in that case, he’d rather not train to be a warrior.
As Dong Soo stalks off, Cho Rip intervenes. He says he doesn’t want to quit, and begs for 10 days to bring himself up to the level to pass. Dong Soo recalls that one of the last things Sa Mo told him was not to give up, but it isn’t until Un hits him in the back of the head with sand and calls him a quitter that he rises to the bait and declares that he’ll never quit.
So they set off for more training. Usually Un comes in first in any of these contests, often Dong Soo comes in second, but usually he’s helping Cho Rip or another trainee. Often the reward for being on the winning side is dinner, while the punishment for being last is usually no food at all (logic, we haz none).
The trainees set off on another run, this one timed and those who fail to return in time will be eliminated. Off they go, and Dong Soo passes a trainee who is struggling. He asks him if he is alright and the trainee nods, but is clutching his chest. They return, Un in the lead, and two trainees fail to make the cut and are hauled off. As Dae Pyo lectures them on not giving up, he notices that someone is missing and they run back over the course. They find him dead on the trail, and one of the trainers admits that the trainee hadn’t been well the night before.
As they lay him to rest beneath a cairn, Dae Pyo tells them that this was an honorable death. Dong Soo tells him that there is no such thing as an honorable death. Death is meaningless. Dae Pyo replies that to die on the path that you have chosen to walk is an honorable and noble death. Dong Soo tells him that’s nonsense, but Dae Pyo tells him that for a warrior, death is a shadow that follows them always.
Dong Soo wakes Un up in the middle of the night again for what appears to be a regular event – another fighting challenge. Un beats the heck out of him again, and tells Cho Rip to ask Dong Soo to stop it already.
At Sa Mo’s request, Commander Im mentions to the Crown Prince that he hasn’t visited the training camp. The Crown Prince admits that he really should go visit the training camp, and particularly meet Dong Soo in person, since he saved his life. So they head off, but their departure is noted and reported to Lord Hong and Chun.
Lord Hong orders Chun to take care of matters – the Crown Prince, and the Plan at the Yoo’s household. Chun chooses to focus on the raid on the camp, reasoning that since the Crown Prince went there, it’s more important.
The Crown Prince arrives at the training camp and is hidden from the trainees behind a screen. They each approach it to greet him. The Prince asks Dong Soo if his parents are alive, and he replies his parents are dead, but he has an uncle who is like a fat-bellied pig. Sa Mo is also hidden behind the screen, causing much snickering, but Dong Soo hears Sa Mo clear his throat, and he thinks he recognizes him. Dong Soo sneaks off to find out who was there and finds Sa Mo, leading to a happy reunion.
Back at the Yoo household, Lord Yoo had earlier fetched the Plan from the temple, and he tells Ji Sun that the Prince will be taking her and the Plan away the next day and that she must guard the Plan with her life. Just then, the household is attacked by the Hired Assassins, led by Ji an In. Lord Yoo hides the Plan in his robes and they attempt to escape.
Two of the Crown Prince’s bodyguards who had been left at the Yoo household try to hold off the assassins to let Lord Yoo and Ji Sun escape. One of them tries to bottle the assassins up at a gate while the other retreats, but In dispatches him easily.
Lord Yoo takes a dagger to the back, and a third guard comes to his assistance. This guard is holding his position, and the retreating guard arrives to help him. Ji shows up, and the retreating guard is again told to fall back. Curiously, Ji asks the remaining guard if he would like to live, he replies that no one wishes to die. In shows up, Ji runs the man through, but purposely does not kill him.
The final guard catches up with the Yoos, and helps them to the temple.
Meanwhile, another group of assassins, led by Chun, attack the training camp. Dong Soo and Cho Rip happen to hear the start of the fight on their way back from the outhouse. (snerk) Cho Rip runs to warn the leaders, including the Crown Prince, while Dong Soo runs to sound the warning bell. Un, on the other hand, goes to meet Chun outside the gate.
As the trainers and assassins fight, Dae Pyo and Sa Mo make quick plans – the Prince needs to get away safely, Dae Pyo will lead the fight and Sa Mo will take the trainees away.
Dae Pyo approaches Chun, and first they trade insults, and then the sword fighting begins. As Dae Pyo fights his way through the minions towards Chun, the trainees are attacked from behind. The Prince and Commander Im are retreating separately, battling their way through.
Chun is getting the best of Dae Pyo, who fights on valiantly. As they are retreating, Dong Soo notices that Un isn’t with them and returns to the camp to find him. Dae Pyo is fighting on to allow the Crown Prince to escape, much to the sorrow of the Prince who knows he’s leaving Dae Pyo to die.
Un is shocked to witness Chun fighting Dae Pyo, and even more shocked when Dong Soo arrives looking for Un. Dong Soo runs to aid Dae Pyo, who tells him to get to safety, but instead, Dong Soo tries to help him. Dae Pyo rushes Chun, who impales him on the sword.
Dong Soo picks up the sword the dying Dae Pyo has released, and from behind Dae Pyo, stabs Chun in the side.
All is grimly still while they are entwined – a terrified Dong Soo holding the sword that has stabbed Chun, Chun driving his sword further into Dae Pyo, Dae Pyo hanging on for dear life between them. Chun finally pulls away, as Dae Pyo drops to the ground mortally wounded, and Dong Soo drops in terror. Chun stalks Dong Soo, kicking him and raising his sword, first slicing him – which dramatically destroys Ji Sun’s pendant.
Un races in and blocks Chun’s path. Chun kicks him away and takes another look at Dong Soo. He takes his sword and tells Dong Soo that if you really want to kill someone, aim for their vital organs, their neck or heart. He demonstrates how to properly hold the sword, and with that, he stabs Dong Soo in the side – just where Dong Soo had stabbed him. He then turns around and deliberately slaughters Dae Pyo. As Chun departs, he tells Un that he should keep an eye on Dong Soo, as one day he’ll surpass Un.
The Yoos and the guard arrive at the temple, where the monk rushes to help. Lord Yoo knows his condition is critical. He has Ji Sun drink a bowl of liquid, which renders her unconscious. While she is out, her father tattoos the diagrams and maps on to her back, and burns those pages of the Plan.
Sa Mo returns to the camp to survey the damage. He finds Dae Pyo there, along with Un and Dong Soo. Dae Pyo’s daughter and sister (the nice lady who does the cooking) survived by hiding, and they emerge to see the Dae Pyo’s body.
The trainees and surviving training camp staff bury their dead, and Sa Mo leads them deeper into the mountains, to where he hopes no one can find them. By the time the troops sent by the Prince arrive, they find the camp empty, and a note from Sa Mo saying that Dae Pyo was well buried and resting in peace, that he has taken the trainees and will return. In the meantime, Im is to protect the Crown Prince well. The Crown Prince also arranges for Ji Sun to be cared for and educated.
In the mountains, the trainees resume training, with Sa Mo now in charge. Because of Dong Soo’s resolve to become stronger, his training is more severe than the others. So while they practice on shore, he practices standing one legged on a pole above the water. (It’s the one legged crane, Daniel! Wax On, Wax Off! )
And with one fall into the water, we emerge a few years later, with our trainees still in training, but now with the older cast. Ji Sun goes from one archery lesson to an adult (Shin Hyun Bin) at an archery lesson. And we finally get a glimpse of Gwang Taek, as he prepares to leave Qing to return to Joseon.
The training continues. The trainees are lined up with a little pot in front of them. Sa Mo tells them that this is bok (복) poison. Dong Soo (Ji Chang Wook) and Un (Yoo Seung Ho) proceed to rattle off the deadly effects of it, also saying that if one survives, one is immune to it from then on. The trainees then each chug the little pot. Many immediately spew it out, and have their mouths washed out. At the end of the eight hour trial, only Un, Dong Soo and Cho Rip (Choi Jae Hwan) remain seated. Even then there is a question as to whether Dong Soo might have failed, as it looked like he may have fainted. In fact, he had fallen asleep.
The trainees have been drilled in horsemanship and swordsmanship, as well as archery. It’s pointed out that Dong Soo isn’t exactly the most mature one there – his choice of where to shoot arrows is, while accurate, a little on the off color side.
And so Un, Cho Rip and Dong Soo say farewell to their mountain comrades (3 of whom are actually named and are being played by wellknown enough actors to give the feeling that they’ll probably turn up later) and head down the mountain to town, where Sa Mo is tending his butcher shop. The boys are given their first task, escorting a Buddhist nun who is traveling with a Qing merchant group. Un asks if they expect an ambush, but Sa Mo says they don’t know, just protect the nun.
A small merchant group rides across a plain. Un and Dong Soo ride beside a small cart that Cho Rip is driving. Dong Soo peeks into the cart, to reveal to us that this nun is Ji Sun. Meanwhile, she looks curiously at Un, as if trying to remember him. We then see a small group lurking, waiting for this caravan.
Un starts to feel a little uneasy, and sees a teeny movement. He sends an arrow towards it, and it lands in the center of the thieves, who are being led by none other than a grown up Hwang Jin Ju (Yoon So Yi), startling them. They send up a signal arrow, and the ambush commences!
And there our episode ends….
There was a lot of action in this episode, and a lot of movement forward as our older cast arrives. Of all of them, I find the Ji Sun transition the most jarring, because it appears to me that older Ji Sun is much daintier than younger Ji Sun. What’s amusing about the older cast is that Ji Chang Wook (older Dong Soo) is about 10 years older than Yeo Jin Goo (younger Dong Soo) but Yoo Seung Ho (older Un) is only about 2 years older than his younger counterpart. And yet somehow, because Ji Chang Wook is matching the happy Labrador puppy personality of his younger self, and Yoo Seung Ho is quite good at playing older, it seems to be working to make them not only seem like they are the same age but that Un is generally more mature.
They’re back to the pounding in of the “honourable death” theme again. It’s almost got a dorama “message of the day” feel about it. Dong Soo has argued with Sa Mo about this before, but interestingly, this time the Crown Prince almost agrees with him. Dong Soo has argued that death is death, that survival means more than an honorable death. Dae Pyo has argued that a death on a path you have chosen to walk is an honorable one. The Prince tells his guard, who is lamenting that he didn’t lay down his life to save the Yoos, that survival is the important thing. Chun seems to agree with both sides (trust Chun to do that) respecting those who die for their purpose, but noting that even a King’s life is just dust.
It’s interesting that Ji seems to prefer to not kill people if she has the choice. Also everyone seems to acknowledge the relative rankings of swordsmanship – first is Gwang Taek, then Chun, then Ji. Un’s shock at seeing Chun fighting Dae Pyo wasn’t enough to get him to move forward, but he did move to help Dong Soo. I’m not sure even Un understands why he did it. Possibly it’s because Dong Soo had returned to find him, possibly because they have grown close on at least some level.
Chun, on the other hand, could easily have killed Dong Soo. As to why he didn’t, it may be in part because Chun wanted to teach Un a lesson. Or keep Un’s loyalty. It could be a weird sort of respect for a kid who succeeded in wounding him. I don’t think he recognized Dong Soo’s name as the baby he refused to kill years earlier.
Slight reality check – 복 – bok is better known to me as fugu, and what Dong Soo says about the poison is the understatement of the year. Also, it is completely wrong that you can get immunity. When my brain translated bok to fugu, it screeched to a halt and went EEK! In fact, I asked a relative who is an ER doctor, and he ventured that since it takes far less than an ounce of straight fugu poison to kill a person, and he doubted they could have distilled it back then, that this poison is more of an “elixir” than the actual poison. In any case you’d still be taking your chances on the qualities of the particular fish, but it that would be more than deadly enough.
He opines that this should be filed under “willing suspension of disbelief.” Since this show is full of that, I have to agree, but I think that it may also a Chekov’s gun situation – unless the fictional immunity is going to come up later, it probably wouldn’t be mentioned in episode 5.
Anyway, as we wrap this up we say goodbye to our friend Dae Pyo and episode 5.