Tempers among the new Hwarang members are running high now that they’re all concentrated in the same place, and fistfights are breaking out at the slightest provocation. It’s not just youthful exuberance, as the infighting among the Hwarang could have serious political consequences, and unfortunately, Sun-woo is right in the middle of it. I hope he starts making some friends soon, because it’s looking like he’s really going to need them.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Waking on their first morning in the Hwarang barracks, Su-ho and Ban-ryu find themselves snuggled in the same bed. Su-ho jumps up screaming, and Yeo-wool doesn’t help things by asking if they did more than just sleep. Ban-ryu grabs their swords and challenges Su-ho to a fight.
Yeo-wool quips that he loves to watch fights and fires, and the guys start swinging. They only get a couple of seconds in before Sun-woo’s dice ricochets off Ban-ryu’s head and into Su-ho’s forehead, and Ji-dwi complains about the noise.
Ban-ryu charges and pins Ji-dwi to the wall with an arm to the throat, snarling that he shouldn’t be so cocky. He says that he doesn’t want to be here at all, much less rooming with Su-ho, and begins to press hard on Ji-dwi’s throat. For his part, Su-ho tries to tell Ban-ryu to release Ji-dwi.
Ji-dwi looks genuinely scared by the time Sun-woo steps in and punches Ban-ryu off him. With Ji-dwi out of danger, Sun-woo finally picks up his dice, admitting that he’s the one who threw it.
That turns Ban-ryu’s fury on him instead, and he jumps up and swings at Sun-woo. Sun-woo ducks the blows, flips Ban-ryu, sits on his chest, and raises a fist.
Ban-ryu doesn’t flinch away, and spits that Sun-woo is just a half-breed. He calls him oil trying to mix with water, and Sun-woo slams down his fist. He stops just short of connecting with Ban-ryu’s face, and says that he’s like stagnant water, doing nothing.
Ban-ryu throws him off and grabs his sword, but again Su-ho intervenes, yelling for them to stop. He and Ban-ryu go after each other, but a burly man walks into their room and calmly locks arms with each of them, rendering them immobile. Without a word he leads the two into the hallway, where he easily fends off the other Hwarang.
The boys convene in the courtyard, and learn that if they receive three warnings, they’ll be kicked out of the Hwarang. Further, if anyone tries to escape or break the Hwarang trust, they’ll all get a warning. They’re told that the ranking system doesn’t exist here, nor do servants, so they’re responsible for all their chores.
The first chore is laundry, and the boys fumble with the task in a nearby river. Ji-dwi tosses some of his clothing into Sun-woo’s pile, and Sun-woo retaliates by shaking the water out of his clothes right in Ji-dwi’s face. Next, Ji-dwi and Sun-woo muck stalls, and Ji-dwi goes green at the smell of the manure.
The boys learn that they get a day off only once every ten days, otherwise they’re not to leave the premises. They are also required to shower and eat with their roommates, which doesn’t make our five boys very happy.
Pa Oh sneaks in to help Ji-dwi with the laundry, who actually seems proud that he’s capable at it. Ji-dwi asks if Pa Oh is watching over Ah Ro as he asked, and tells him to leave before he’s caught.
Soo-yeon visits Ah Ro to ask if she’s heard from her brother, but Ah Ro sees right through her, since Soo-yeon hasn’t heard from her brother Su-ho yet, either. Ah Ro sighs that she hasn’t heard from Sun-woo, and Soo-yeon notes that she acts like she sent away a lover. Ah Ro corrects that she just had something she wanted to give to him.
The Hwarang boys are still grouchy at mealtime, since they’re being forced to sit together to eat. Ban-ryu is doubly offended at having to eat with a low-born like Sun-woo, and pours his broth on Sun-woo’s food.
Sun-woo just continues eating, and asks if Ban-ryu is upset that he was beaten by a low-born. Ban-ryu snaps back that he heard his sister tells racy stories, and sneers that he heard the half-breed girl is very good at “storytelling.”
Ban-ryu tells Sun-woo that he’s planning on visiting Ah Ro for some “storytelling” on their off day, and Ji-dwi warns Sun-woo not to let this go, or he’ll be torn to pieces. But Sun-woo stands, throws his spoon down, and walks out.
Merchant Joo-ki witnesses the verbal sparring, and reports to Hwa-gong that he’s worried about the boys’ flaring tempers. Hwa-gong just says they’re all good fighters, and orders Joo-ki to scratch his back.
It’s time for some lessons, and the boys file into a large room, where Ban-ryu makes a point to sit next to Sun-woo. He calls Sun-woo an idiot and says he’s willing to fight whenever Sun-woo starts it, and Sun-woo retorts that he’s purposely not starting a fight.
Sun-woo asks what Ban-ryu’s problem is with him, and Ban-ryu says that he just doesn’t like him. He says that he can’t fight with anyone else because they have powerful families, and adds that Sun-woo’s sister is so pretty that he wants her as a mistress.
That’s the last straw for Sun-woo, who lunges at Ban-ryu, but Ji-dwi gets there first. He drags Ban-ryu up to hit him, but Sun-woo throws the first punch, and Ban-ryu laughs that Sun-woo finally started it.
Su-ho snaps at that and punches Ban-ryu, hard. That starts an all-out brawl, with all the boys participating. Only Yeo-wool declines to fight, and just watches with an amused smile on his face. The noise brings Hwa-gong in time to see Sun-woo sitting on Ban-ryu again, prepared to knock his lights out.
For breaking the trust of the Hwarang and fighting in a sacred learning place, the boys are punished. When asked who started it, Sun-woo bravely takes responsibility, and a few of the boys look at him with newfound respect.
The thing Ah Ro meant to give to Sun-woo turns out to be a pot of ointment for his cut hand, and she can’t look at it without thinking how he told her to rely on him. She thinks about the emotions he elicits, like feeling good when she’s with him, crying over him, and hurting for him, and figures that must be what family feels like.
Soo-yeon argues that family makes your head hurt, not your heart, and tells Ah Ro that what she’s feeling is love. Ah Ro starts to protest that she would feel any such thing for her brother, but Joo-ki rushes into the teahouse looking for her.
He takes her to the Hwarang school, and Ah Ro gapes at the crowd of boys groaning in pain from their fight injuries. She says she’s not a real doctor, but Joo-ki says that he brought her here because he trusts her to be discreet, and offers to write off half her debt to him.
Ah Ro is worried when she doesn’t see Sun-woo anywhere, and nearby, Ban-ryu’s lackeys wonder if he’ll be kicked out for this. Yeo-wool and Han-sung overhear their conversation, and Yeo-wool asks curiously who Han-sung prefers: Sun-woo, or Ban-ryu? Han-sung just snaps that he’s not with Ban-ryu.
Ban-ryu and Su-ho argue over who really started the fight, with Su-ho reminding Ban-ryu that he was purposely goading Sun-woo all day. Ban-ryu says that he most certainly was not provoking Sun-woo, not that Su-ho buys it.
Su-ho says that in his opinion, Ban-ryu is the kind of person who would rather die than join the Hwarang. He asks why Ban-ryu is really here, triggering Ban-ryu’s memory of his adoptive father, Minister Park, savagely beating his biological father. Ban-ryu is visibly shaken, but only offers to fight whenever Su-ho wishes.
Han-sung’s face goes a little green when Ah Ro says his hand needs stitches, and Ah Ro notes that he seems young. He protests that he’s quite mature, though not very convincingly.
He initially refuses the painkiller she offers him, but when she calls him “oraboni,” he lights up adorably and takes the medicine. He asks if she’s Ahn Ji-gong’s daughter, points to the boys all milling around, and quips that she’s the more popular sibling.
Hwa-gong visits Sun-woo, who’s currently locked in a storeroom, and Sun-woo asks if he’d still be here if he’d held in his anger. Hwa-gong chuckles and asks if he’s regretting his actions, but Sun-woo says no, he’s just thinking, and isn’t a thinking Hwarang what Hwa-gong wants?
Hwa-gong looks at him with interest, and asks what he’s thinking about. Sun-woo says he’s thinking that nothing can stop him from protecting those he wants to protect.
Ah Ro worries when Sun-woo never shows up, and when Ji-dwi comes for treatment, he’s offended when she asks about Sun-woo first. She ignores him and asks after Sun-woo again, and Ji-dwi drags her by the wrist to a more private place.
He turns Ah Ro and leans against her back, asking her to let him sleep that way for just a few minutes. He grumbles that she’s not so pretty that he’d attack her in broad daylight, and says it’s not even the first time they’ve slept together.
Ah Ro is offended, but she’s persuaded to let Ji-dwi lean on her. He says softly that she may not be a real doctor, but she’s very healing for him, and he nearly instantly starts to snore. Aww.
Queen Regent Jiso approaches the school on horseback, accompanied only by her attendant and her bodyguard, Hyun Chu. Su-ho is the first to see her and is struck again by her beauty (which she notices), and he leads them to Hwa-gong.
Hwa-gong guesses that this visit is due to his assistant’s reports, since the queen regent is not happy. He points out that nobody is dead or maimed, and says that he has to break the boys down before he can build them up.
Hwa-gong asks if she’s here to check on her Hwarang, or his Hwarang. She asks softly about his, and he tells her about Ji-dwi, claiming to be a distant uncle of his.
In turn, he asks why she wanted Ahn Ji-gong’s son in the Hwarang, and she says bluntly, “He’s my son.” But she means it’s only natural to think of him as her son (as in, all the people are her “children”), and Hwa-gong suggests she go meet with him.
She does, and she lights into Sun-woo for behaving badly, since he’s connected with her. Sun-woo says that he thinks she sent him here to be the weak animal, an example to the others of how they’ll also be broken and tamed. The queen regent doesn’t deny it, and she tells him again why he has to stay in the Hwarang — to pay for his sins, so that someone else (Ji-gong or Ah Ro) doesn’t have to.
Meanwhile, Ah Ro lets Ji-dwi sleep with his head in her lap for a while. The queen regent watches them from a short distance, and when Ji-dwi eventually awakens, he sees his mother there and sighs that he’s been caught.
He tells Ah Ro that Sun-woo is locked in the warehouse for starting the fight, and Ah Ro rushes off to find him. He’s alarmed to see her here, and breaks down the door to let her into his makeshift cell. She frowns at him and says she was invited here, and suddenly notices his injuries.
Sun-woo is beside himself as he tries to get her to leave. Ah Ro wants to stay and nurse his wounds, but Sun-woo is practically frantic to get her out. Ah Ro snaps that he shouldn’t have gotten hurt then, and says that his wounds are her biggest concern.
Sun-woo has no choice but to sit and let Ah Ro clean the cut over his eye, and he looks at her with the saddest expression while she works. She mocks him a little when he cringes from the medicine, saying that she only uses the really painful stuff on her bad patients, which makes Sun-woo laugh.
He denies laughing when Ah Ro says it’s nice to see him smile, and she says he should laugh more often. He murmurs that he doesn’t like her being here because he doesn’t like when other guys look at her, but Ah Ro says it’s way too late for that (having treated almost all of them outside). Sun-woo grumbles that she has no fear, and she says it’s because he’s here to protect her.
As they leave the Hwarang grounds, Joo-ki asks why Ah Ro looks so strange when she was able to find her brother as she wanted. She says she’s not sure, and looks surprised when Joo-ki asks if Sun-woo is really her brother.
Sun-woo looks at the pot of ointment Ah Ro left behind, and thinks about her applying it to his cut eye earlier. She’d said it was strange that the last few days felt longer than the ten years she went without seeing him, adding that she seems to be thinking of him more now.
Queen Regent Jiso speaks with Hwa-gong in a more formal setting, and asks how he could say he wants the boys to fight, then threaten to kick one out for fighting. She’s got a point. Hwa-gong chuckles that he thought she wanted his help planning the new country, and asks if she forgot that she gave him authority over the Hwarang.
The queen regent assures him that he’s still in charge, but warns that if his discipline doesn’t work, she’ll withdraw that authority.
Hwa-gong leaves laughing, and runs straight into Minister Park and his entourage. Minister Park guesses that Hwa-gong was meeting with the queen regent, and says that a woman’s mind is difficult to understand.
He invites Hwa-gong to his home, and makes a point to mention his adoptive son, Ban-ryu. Hwa-gong knows it’s a ploy to get into his good graces to push Ban-ryu forward, so he cheerfully declines.
He visits Sun-woo instead to tell him that he’s not being kicked out yet. Instead, he plans to slowly throttle him, then kick him out. But, he advises Sun-woo to do well on the first exam, otherwise it will reflect badly on Hwa-gong.
The boys reconvene for their first lesson, and Hwa-gong shows them the character for “water.” He asks if water is weak or strong, and Su-ho responds that it’s strong, since it beats fire. Ban-ryu argues that water goes around any obstacles, which means it’s weak. Ji-dwi speaks up, saying that water is kind — it brings life, and flows even to the lowest places.
Hwa-gong singles out Sun-woo, asking what he thinks. Sun-woo says that water is exhausted, since it produces things like fish and gold until it dries up.
Hwa-gong reveals the next character, the character for “king.” He says that their test is to debate what water means to a king, and that he expects them to reference a Chinese philosophical text for it.
Joo-ki tells Ah Ro about the test, and she despairs that Sun-woo will be able to pass. She wonders what she should do while screaming in Joo-ki’s face, ha.
As Ji-gong shops for medicinal herbs, he’s approached by a man in a wide hat. The man calls Ji-gong by name, and raises his hat to reveal that he’s Sun-woo’s first adoptive father, Woo-reuk. The men go to Ji-gong’s home to talk, where Woo-reuk says that Ji-gong should have left Sun-woo to live his own life.
He’s angry that Sun-woo was forced to join the Hwarang, and scoffs when Ji-gong says it’s just his fate. Woo-reuk thinks that Ji-gong is using Sun-woo to get revenge for his real son’s death, and says that Sun-woo shouldn’t be revealed to the world this way.
He angrily accuses Ji-gong of ruining Sun-woo’s true fate, and Ji-gong frowns as he asks who Sun-woo really is. Woo-reuk just walks out, leaving Ji-gong with unanswered questions.
Sun-woo does his best to read the complicated characters, but he’s still at “the black is the letters and the white is the background.” Oh dear. He realizes that Ah Ro must be back at the Hwarang barracks by the other boys’ weird behavior, and goes to find her.
He yells at her for coming here again and being seen by all those dirty-minded guys, but she just says he can protect her. She gets right in his face and asks how he intends to pass this test when he can barely read a few letters, and offers to teach him.
Sun-woo doesn’t like it, since it means she’ll have to come to Hwarang often, but he can’t deny that he needs her help. This time, he insists on her guiding his hand, claiming it will be faster. Yeah, right. He sneaks cute little glances at Ah Ro as they work late into the night.
They make a regular thing of it, and Sun-woo is coming along nicely. Ah Ro praises him for being a fast learner and nudges him playfully, making him paint a stripe across his papers. He goes after her face with his brush pen, and ends up painting his own face before he manages to draw a unibrow and several moles on Ah Ro, hee.
They’re having so much fun that they don’t notice Ji-dwi watching them from around the corner. Ji-dwi sits alone later and thinks about a conversation he had with his mother recently, when he’d told her that she can’t be both his mother and his queen.
Queen Regent Jiso had said that without her backing him up, nobody will know he’s the king. But she’d softened and said that as a mother, she had no intention of throwing him away.
Ji-dwi finds Ah Ro later and pushes back her sleeve to note that his promissory note is still inked on her arm. He asks when she intends to repay her debt to him, and says she can pay it now.
Next thing you know, he’s sitting in on Sun-woo’s and Ah Ro’s study dates. So awkward. Sun-woo is particularly cranky about it and starts a passive-aggressive war with their brushes, which Ji-dwi is more than happy to participate in.
One night, Ah Ro sneaks up behind Sun-woo and pokes him in the face, only to discover to her horror that it’s actually Ji-dwi. She recoils, explaining that she thought he was her brother, and Ji-dwi snarls at her to stop calling him “oraboni.”
Ah Ro draws while Ji-dwi studies, and she shows him how the symbol for “butterfly” itself looks like a butterfly. Ji-dwi is mesmerized by the lifelike drawing, seeing it come to life and fly right off the page in his mind. He begs her for one more, and requests she do one for the word “king.”
Ah Ro draws a tree with a large mother bird in the branches and a baby bird on the ground. Ah Ro says this is how she pictures the queen regent and the king — she’s not willing to come down, so he has to learn to fly on his own. She says she feels bad for the king who’s forced to live in hiding, like a young bird fallen from the nest.
Moved, Ji-dwi says that there’s a life that should never have been born, otherwise he wouldn’t have had to fall from the nest. Ah Ro defends the sad, faceless king, and Ji-dwi surges to his feet and asks how she could dare to call the king sad.
He advances on Ah Ro, asking who she is to shake him this way. Ah Ro is frightened and asks why he’s suddenly so upset, but Ji-dwi doesn’t seem to hear her, and asks as a tear rolls down his face, “Who are you to make me insignificant?”
Ah Ro warns Ji-dwi that her brother won’t like the way he’s acting, and he grabs her shoulders and says again not to call Sun-woo “oraboni.” She says the word again, looking for Sun-woo, and Ji-dwi slams his mouth down on hers in an angry kiss.
Outside the door, Sun-woo finally arrives, unaware of what’s happening in the next room.
If I thought Ji-dwi was too forceful with Ah Ro before, I’m definitely not happy with him now. Forced kisses aren’t sexy or romantic, and they’re certainly not going to get a girl to like you when she’s repeatedly shown that not only is she not interested in that way, she actively dislikes you. Just the fact that he’s holding his rescue of her over her head, as if she owes him something, makes me mad at him. And I’m disappointed too, because his reasoning for having feelings for her could be so gentle and sweet (that she relaxes him enough to let him sleep), and yet when he’s awake, Ji-dwi just pushes Ah Ro around like her wishes don’t matter. Especially when he objected to the guy who treated her the exact same way before, so why doesn’t Ji-dwi see that while his intentions are different, he’s pretty much treating Ah Ro the exact same way? I really want to like him, but every time he manhandles Ah Ro, it makes me like Sun-woo for her that much more.
I appreciated getting to see more of the boys’ interactions, particularly between Su-ho and Ban-ryu. Su-ho surprised me by being more insightful than I gave him credit for (when he noted that Ban-ryu must have been forced to join the Hwarang), and that’s why Ban-ryu’s been in such a nasty mood, even for him. It’s good to see that Su-ho does have a serious side, and that he does genuinely seem to like Sun-woo, as he took up for him nearly every time Ban-ryu poked at him. I’m looking forward to Sun-woo and Su-ho becoming friends, mostly just because Su-ho’s sunny disposition and easy sense of humor remind me of Mak Mun, and Sun-woo could use another friend like that. Though I am worried about his attraction to the queen regent and the problems that could arise — I don’t think she would actually consider him romantically, but she absolutely would use his feelings for her to manipulate him.
It’s becoming more obvious to me that Ban-ryu’s constant bad attitude isn’t really about aggression, but fear. He must be terrified, knowing that his father has kowtowed to a tyrant (Minister Park) and that they’re plotting to overthrow the queen regent and put him on the throne. There’s no way Minister Park will allow Ban-ryu to actually rule, so his whole life plan is to be a pawn for more powerful men. That’s got to be terrifying, and it’s no wonder to me that he’s angry and lashing out, and as he says, Sun-woo makes the most convenient target. But the fact that Su-ho seems to care about him, even if just the tiny bit required to wonder why he’s in the Hwarang when it’s not his style, gives me hope. What Ban-ryu needs is a true friend, not just those toadies who say what he wants to hear.
I feel so bad for Sun-woo, who’s finding himself even more isolated in the Hwarang than ever. It’s hard to watch him being picked on by Ban-ryu, but I was still impressed that he didn’t let go of his iron grip on his moral compass, even when he was faced with imprisonment and being kicked out of the Hwarang. And he’s not as alone as he thinks — if he can learn to trust just a little, I think he’d find that many of the other boys — Su-ho, Yeo-wool, and Han-sung in particular — would be willing to be friends. And aside from the romance aspect, I liked seeing him and Ah Ro becoming friends, because he has such capacity for loyalty and for caring for others, and he needed somewhere to put it after losing Mak Mun.
I’m intrigued after the discussion between Woo-reuk and Ji-gong — I’ve suspected that Sun-woo wasn’t just abandoned but actually in hiding, and that Woo-reuk is his appointed protector. It seems as though that suspicion could be right, and I know there are a lot of theories floating around regarding Sun-woo’s true identity. I have no idea what’s up with Sun-woo, but I’m with the rest of you — something is up, and I can’t wait to find out what.