We’ve finally gotten to the part of the show I’ve most been looking forward to — the budding friendships between the boys. It’s early days yet, but you can see by the way that they fight together that eventually, they’ll be working together instead of against each other. They have a long (long, long) way to go before they’re true friends, but the seeds are there, and the little glimpses we’re already getting are well worth the wait.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Sun-woo comes out of unconsciousness to find himself tied up and hanging from the ceiling of an old building. He remembers Ah Ro’s kidnapping, confronting Scarface (whose name is actually DOO-WOO) and his minions, and grabbing the dagger held to his throat and daring Doo-woo to kill him. One of the minions had knocked him unconscious, and he’d been left here.
He suddenly thinks of Ah Ro and looks around, but instead he finds Sammaekjong hanging next to him. Sammaekjong wakes in a panic and flails wildly, and Sun-woo dryly tells him to calm down before he makes his headache worse. Too late.
Sammaekjong scoffs when Sun-woo asks why he was following him, and points out that they’re wearing the same outfit (the Hwarang uniform). He says that he knows Sun-woo was following Ah Ro, and warns him to watch out for his status, what with him hanging out with a “half-breed” like her. He pokes a little more, saying that Ah Ro must be something for Sun-woo to chase after her, and now, it’s on.
Sun-woo manages to land a kick, and the boys end up swinging and batting at each other as best they can while tied up in midair. Sun-woo even gets in a good bite to Sammaekjong’s shoulder. HAHA, I could watch this all day.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Hwarang line up in the palace courtyard, ready to be officially appointed by the queen regent. Su-ho and Ban-ryu’s factions can’t help but argue even here, but Ban-ryu knows that his father as well as his adoptive father Minister Park are both watching, and warns the others to shut up.
Queen Regent Jiso arrives and looks out over her new Hwarang with triumph. She shoots a look at Minister Park that reminds him that the officials’ sons lives are hers now, and he thinks that she’d better not let down her guard, or he’ll find Sammaekjong and steal his throne.
The queen regent notices that her ace card against Ahn Ji-gong, Sun-woo, hasn’t arrived yet. At the same time, Hwa-gong sees that the spot reserved for “Kim Ji-dwi,” the name he knows Sammaekjong by, is also empty.
The boys have stopped fighting, but only because their ropes have gotten so entangled that they can’t reach each other anymore. Sun-woo says that Ah Ro is his sister, wondering why Sammaekjong even cares, but Sammaekjong says they can discuss it further once they get free. Funnily enough, Sammaekjong seems much more inclined to work with him upon hearing that Ah Ro is his sister and not his lover.
They work together to untangle their ropes, and look around the building. They realize it’s a slaughterhouse, judging by the sharp implements and bloody meat everywhere.
Doo-woo and his minions are nearby, planning what to do with Sun-woo and Sammaekjong. Doo-woo argues for not killing Sun-woo, since Minister Park has offered a bounty for him, but he doesn’t care if they dispatch Sammaekjong and Ah Ro.
The Hwarang boys get antsy when the ceremony doesn’t begin, and Yeo-wool, the notorious pretty boy, muses that it’s a test. Only Su-ho doesn’t seem to care as he takes the chance to look his fill at the beautiful queen regent.
Sun-woo and Sammaekjong hear footsteps, and a mountain of a man enters the slaughterhouse carrying a massive ax. The giant stops to paint his face with blood, then inexplicably licks what looks like a raw leg of lamb, which is both gross and alarming.
Sammaekjong politely asks the giant not to do what he’s thinking of doing, but the giant picks up his ax and approaches. Sammaekjong avoids the first few swings, then Sun-woo yells at him to kick, so Sammaekjong kicks the giant’s ax-hand, hard.
The ax flies into the air, and Sun-woo catches it with the hand he’s just freed from his bonds. Sun-woo cuts himself down and lands in an ungraceful heap, and the giant picks him up and flings him across the room. The giant pulls out a couple of small knives, and Sun-woo smacks one of the hanging slabs of meat into his face. This is awesome.
Sun-woo gets in a few good jabs to the giant, but his punches do absolutely nothing. Even a mighty kick to the giant’s chest just ends up with Sun-woo on the floor again.
Doo-woo goes to see Ah Ro, who’s blindfolded and gagged in a nearby building. He tells her in an ominous voice that he’ll take care of her since “that Dog-Bird” likes her, all the while running the point of his knife along her face.
Sun-woo is badly losing his fight with the giant, and he picks up the nearest thing he can find to wield as a weapon, which turns out to be the leg of lamb. He whacks it right into the giant’s family jewels, and follows it up with a leg-of-lamb-smack to the face, knocking the giant out cold.
Sun-woo bandages his hand, seeming to have no intention of cutting down Sammaekjong as long as the suspended man keeps barking orders at him. When it looks like Sun-woo might actually leave him there, Sammaekjong asks humbly, “Save me,” and Sun-woo turns back.
Eventually, the queen regent can’t delay any further and orders the ceremony to begin. She hands Hwa-gong a ceremonial sword, and they each note that they seem to be missing their “card” (they each agreed to give the other one choice they wouldn’t challenge — the queen’s is Sun-woo, Hwa-gong’s is Sammaekjong).
Doo-woo and his minions enter the slaughterhouse to find the place seemingly empty. Sun-woo and Sammaekjong burst out of hiding at the same time, taking the bandits by surprise and knocking them out one by one, even employing some pretty impressive teamwork.
They make their way to Ah Ro’s building, and when Sammaekjong tries to take off her blindfold, she head-butts him in the face. Sun-woo softly tells her that he’s here, and she stops struggling to let him remove her blindfold and gag.
The moment she sees his face, Ah Ro bursts into tears and throws herself into his arms. She sobs that she thought he was dead, and he looks a little gobsmacked that the thought of him dying upset her this much. Sammaekjong rolls his eyes at the tender reunion, noting how Sun-woo awkwardly strokes Ah Ro’s hair before telling them that they have to go.
And not a moment too soon, because the bandits are on their way. Ah Ro’s arms are still tied, so Sun-woo slings her over his shoulder. Sammaekjong tells Sun-woo to run for it, and he’ll hang back and stall the bandits.
Sun-woo carries Ah Ro to a safe area and unties her, then starts to head back to help Sammaekjong. Ah Ro stops him, so he tells her he’ll be back before the count of two hundred, and she tells him he has till she counts to one hundred and fifty to come back safely.
He arrives back at the hideout just as Sammaekjong is growing overwhelmed, and their excellent spontaneous teamwork evens the odds a bit. They even use some of the same moves they used during the ballgame, but eventually the bandits get the upper hand due to sheer numbers.
Just when it looks like all is lost, arrows start to thunk into the bandits one by one. Doo-woo barely manages to see the hidden archer hiding in a nearby building—it’s Sun-woo’s adoptive father from the village! He creates enough of a diversion to allow the boys to escape, and even gets Doo-woo in the shoulder with an arrow.
The new Hwarang accept their new swords one at a time, while those aware that there are two men missing begin to fidget. By the time there are only two swords left, the queen regent has decided that Sun-woo must have run away, and she stands to conclude the ceremony. But just as she begins, the courtyard door opens to admit Sun-woo and Sammaekjong.
The queen regent’s face goes pale as she sees her son, the king of Silla, marching in to accept his position in the Hwarang. She can’t say a word or she’ll expose his true identity, and he knows it.
He steps forward to receive his Hwarang sword under the name Ji-dwi (and we’ll be calling him this from now on, since it’s his new assumed identity). Just for a moment he meets his mother’s eyes, determined to do this despite her agenda to keep him hidden.
Sun-woo steps up next to accept his Hwarang sword. His thoughts are full of his friend Mak Mun, the real Sun-woo, and he wonders if he can really live his friend’s life. He takes the sword and his voice rings with strength: “Hwarang, Sun-woo! I’ll accept the name of Hwarang!”
The queen regent collects her wits and makes the announcement that with the Hwarang, she intends to make Silla the strongest of the three kingdoms. The new Hwarang swear loyalty to the kingdom and the king (which Ji-dwi recites with a marked sneer in his voice), and the crowd goes wild.
As soon as he can, Ji-gong asks Sun-woo about this Doo-woo person that confined him. Sun-woo tells him that Doo-woo used to collect taxes in his old village, which is how they know each other. He says they don’t have a great relationship, but he doesn’t know why Doo-woo came after him this time.
He expresses regret that Ah Ro was put in danger because of him, and Ji-gong’s voice goes hard as he warns Sun-woo that if it happens again, he won’t forgive him. He continues that they can’t go back from here, so whatever Sun-woo does now will also affect Ji-gong.
Later that night, Sun-woo sighs over the rips and stains in his Hwarang uniform. Ah Ro walks in on him shirtless and nearly has kittens at the sight of his bare chest, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t spit out the word “oraboni” (older brother).
She spots his clothes and, grateful for something to talk about, offers to repair them for him. Sun-woo pretends not to notice her fidgeting, but after she leaves, he smiles to himself. His thoughts of Ah Ro won’t let him sleep, so he creeps out of bed to peek at her as she sews his uniform.
As she works, Ah Ro lectures herself on her inability to call Sun-woo “oraboni,” and Sun-woo grins at her sadness that she has to call him that at all. He grows mesmerized watching her sewing his uniform, and when she nearly spots him he flings himself inside like a giant dork. HAHA.
Later, Sun-woo pretends to be asleep when Ah Ro comes into his room. She takes his injured hand, the one he used to grab Doo-woo’s knife, and unwraps it as she says she has something to tell him while he’s sleeping. She finally calls him “Oraboni,” and thanks him for saving her life.
Ah Ro continues that she’s always believed she was on her own — but for the first time, she’s met someone she wants to rely on. She’s says she’s happy to have him as a brother, but that her new feelings are scary, and she wonders if she can do this.
She finishes cleaning and bandaging Sun-woo’s hand, and softly tells him not to get hurt again. Sun-woo drops his act and grabs her by the wrist. He says in a low voice that he’s also scared that he won’t be able to protect her. He says it’s the first time anyone has depended on him, but he asks her to anyway, because she’s not alone anymore.
Queen Regent Jiso is in a fury, and orders her bodyguard Hyun Chu to get the king out of the country immediately. Hyun Chu says that it’s better that he’s here, since there’s no safe place for him in the capital. But nobody would ever imagine the king himself would be in the Hwarang.
Ah Ro hovers outside Sun-woo’s bedroom door the next morning, deliberately making noise to wake him. He startles her by sitting down next to her and pointing out her awkward behavior. Sun-woo seems to enjoy making Ah Ro even more flustered, as he keeps touching her and leaning in close, acting all innocent.
Doo-woo and his number one minion report back to Minister Park, who’s interested to learn that Ahn Ji-gong’s supposed son is really an orphan boy from the low-born village. He finds it fascinating that the queen regent formed the Hwarang so quickly after the king came to the city. He thinks that Sun-woo must have seen the king’s face, which is why the queen regent made him Hwarang.
Sun-woo dresses in his uniform, but has some trouble figuring out the belt. Ah Ro steps in to help, and Sun-woo pretends to be annoyed, but he can’t stop from smiling whenever she’s not looking. He mock-complains that the belt is messed up from her terrible sewing, but she just snaps back that she was pretty good at sewing him up. Point to Ah Ro.
She steps back to check Sun-woo, and gets flustered again at the fine figure he cuts in his uniform. He teases that she knew from the beginning that he was handsome, and he clearly enjoys repeating her drunken words back to her and making her frown. Aaand point to Sun-woo.
She tells him that she’s going to watch the Hwarang procession on the way to the barracks, and tells him to wave if he sees her. Sun-woo says he won’t, grouching that having a sister is annoying, hee.
All the ladies turn out to see the Hwarang procession and swoon over the pretty men. The boys notice the ladies too, and even Ban-ryu seems to lock eyes for a second with one beautiful girl — Ah Ro’s friend Soo-yeon, who also happens to be his archenemy Su-ho’s sister. Uh oh.
As they walk, Hwa-gong’s assistant asks if he’s not worried to put all these hot-headed young men in the same place. He warns Hwa-gong that he’s here to evaluate things, and if anything goes wrong he’ll recommend the queen regent disband the Hwarang.
Minister Park and Ho Gong, Ban-ryu’s biological father, sit in Joo-ki’s teahouse to watch the young men who weren’t chosen for the Hwarang because they didn’t have the necessary pedigree. Minister Park figures that these are the young men who will be most against the queen regent now, and plans to “buy them.” They’re amused by one furious boy in particular, Kang Sung, the same guy who beat up Mak Mun in the club.
Ji-dwi’s bodyguard Pa Oh is posing as a street vendor, and he’s surprised to see Ji-dwi out of uniform and skipping the procession. He assumes that Ji-dwi changed his mind about being in the Hwarang, but Ji-dwi corrects him and says that he’s going later.
Despite his grumpy claims, Sun-woo scans the crowd for Ah Ro during the procession. He doesn’t see his adoptive father, Woo-reuk, watching him from under a straw hat, and he completely misses Ah Ro when she finally pushes through the crowd.
Someone barrels through the crowd, and Ah Ro accidentally rips his sleeve trying not to fall. It’s Kang Sung, Ban-ryu’s angry friend, and he screams at Ah Ro for ruining his expensive clothing. He refuses her offer to repair them and raises his hand to strike her, but he suddenly recognizes her as the storyteller, and his tune immediately changes.
He makes assumptions based on the racy nature of her stories, and offers to forget the whole thing if Ah Ro spends some time alone with him. Gross. He drags her off as Ah Ro loudly objects.
Suddenly, Kang Sung is smacked in the face by a bag of coins. A second one hits him, and Ji-dwi shows himself, explaining that the first bag is to pay for Ah Ro, and the second is an apology for hitting him in the face with the first bag. HA. Kang Sung lurches at Ji-dwi, but a sharp jab in the solar plexus by Pa Oh has him thinking twice. He picks up the coin bags and leaves, and Ji-dwi moves towards Ah Ro.
She apologizes for not being able to pay him back, but he’s more interested in her debt to him for saving her life earlier. He takes a paintbrush and draws a half-moon on her forearm, explaining that it’s a long-lasting paint that will serve as a bond of debt — when she repays him, he’ll erase it.
Hwa-gong leads the new Hwarang into their new barracks, and their first challenge is to drink several cups of alcohol in quick succession. The boys choke their way to hilarious drunkenness, all except Ji-dwi, who looks perfectly sober after all the drinking. Poor Sun-woo looks sick as a dog, unused to much drinking at all.
Once they’re all good and wasted, Hwa-gong calls them forward to choose their room plates. Ban-ryu, Su-ho, Ji-dwi, and Sun-woo all pull the same black room plate, making them roommates. Hwa-gong tells the boys that there are no more rules for today — they can steal each other’s room plates, or even roommates, however they like.
In private, his assistant complains that getting the boys drunk and setting them loose on each other is a terrible idea. He wonders how they can teach the boys lofty ideals now, and Hwa-gong just laughs and tells his assistant to just teach the boys the consequences of their actions.
Sun-woo is found out by several boys who were at the club fight and know he’s low-born, and they proceed to beat him soundly and kick him into a ditch. But just when they think they’ve gotten the best of him, Sun-woo comes up, completely sober now, and returns the beating easily.
Out in the courtyard, Ban-ryu and Su-ho have realized they’re sharing a room, and are trying to steal the black room plates from each other. It’s kind of adorable how indignant they are, yet they can’t manage to even lay a finger on each other for all the drunken swaying. These two are going to be so cute once they’re besties.
Hwa-gong’s assistant won’t let the subject drop, and Hwa-gong asks if he’s worried about the boys, or about what to report to the queen regent. He thinks it doesn’t matter if the boys kill each other now, because they’ll only kill each other later. Hwa-gong reveals his true plan — to let the boys interact, shape, and reshape each other, so that they can take them and form something new.
Ji-dwi tries to ignore Sun-woo as he sits in pain, but he stops to ask what happened anyway. Sun-woo clutches his sore ribs, and Ji-dwi sees the dragon-head bracelet he’s still wearing as he asks if it’s true that Sun-woo is the queen regent’s chosen Hwarang. Sun-woo just asks if Ji-dwi has ever carried anyone before.
Ji-dwi says that will never happen, warning Sun-woo not to even think of it. Cut to: Ji-dwi piggybacking an unconscious Sun-woo into the dorms, HA.
Ji-dwi finds the black-plate room, which is already occupied by Su-ho and Ban-ryu, both sleeping. A third young man sits near one bed — it’s Yeo-wool, the highest-ranked Hwarang in the group. Yeo-wool looks at Ji-dwi with hooded eyes, and asks dryly if his shocked expression is because he’s never seen a beautiful man before.
Ji-dwi dumps Sun-woo on the unoccupied bed, and Yeo-wool swipes his black plate. He counts up the boys in the room, and figures that these are the five who will be sharing living quarters. He looks amused and says, “This is going to be fun, don’t you think?”
Aww, I think I’m going to like Yeo-wool. There’s something removed about him, as if he’s above all this petty social bickering, but he doesn’t seem jaded. It’s more like he wields enough power on his own that he can afford to ignore it and just coast along doing whatever he wants. I’m fascinated by his character more than the other Hwarang boys, and curious to see how he’ll fit into the friendship that will form.
I think I’ve figured out why Ji-dwi isn’t going to get the girl, and it’s really no wonder. I doubt, living in exile, that he’s had much experience with women. His approach to Ah Ro seems to be pretty assertive, almost aggressive, which is definitely not going to work with a strong-willed girl like her. He’s forceful with her, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way that raises her hackles and makes her push back, creating distance between them instead of the closeness he clearly wants.
On the other hand, it’s understandable that Ah Ro is having confusing feelings for Sun-woo, because while he’s calling himself her brother, he’s acting like a guy who loves her. He’s gentle and thoughtful, slowing down and meeting her on her emotional level at every turn. I liked their little scene when she admitted it’s the first time she wanted to rely on someone, and he confessed to being scared he can’t protect her. It was a pretty big moment for Sun-woo, to be open enough that he admitted to being afraid and willing to ask her to lean on him, since the one time he was in a position to protect someone, they died. But mostly I just love the way he always thinks of Ah Ro first — a good example being when the boys rescued Ah Ro from the bandits. Ji-dwi just started manhandling her, trying to untie her, but without speaking to her first. Of course she thought he was a bandit there to hurt her! But Sun-woo slowed down, spoke softly, told her they were there to help, and she calmed right down. He thinks of her needs first, which is really nice to see.
It’s interesting to watch, because the characters of Sun-woo and Ji-dwi seem to be switched from the usual dramaland lead and second lead mold. So often the lead is the one that’s aggressive and pushy with the woman. He’s arrogant and prickly, but she sees through all that to the marshmallow inside. But in this case, it’s Ji-dwi who’s those things, and Ah Ro isn’t having any of it. Meanwhile, Sun-woo is doing all the usual second-lead things like taking care of the girl, being sweet to her, and casting longing looks in her direction — only for once, it’s totally working. I’m on board to see more of this.
Speaking of Sun-woo, his crush on Ah Ro is so cute, I can’t even. He’s definitely aware of his feelings, and even looks like he’s enjoying them, though when she finally called him “oraboni,” it seemed to have sunk in for the first time that he’s in no position to truly court her. And it’s more than obvious that Ah Ro feels the same attraction, so I do hope she learns that he’s not her real brother soon. I still don’t find it completely icky, because to Ah Ro this is a guy she just met, plus he’s gorgeous, so it’s natural for her to find him attractive when she didn’t grow up attaching any familial associations to him. I can understand finding a new person handsome, even if you think he’s related, for a short time. But eventually (if you’re truly related) you have to move past that, and that time is swiftly approaching for Ah Ro. If she keeps being attracted to Sun-woo past the initial “just met this person” time frame, then it will get weird. It’s a delicate timing issue, so here’s hoping that Ah Ro learns the truth soon.