NDFD Episode 2: Unraveling the Mystery by Greta
Posted on February 3, 2019
Hello readers! Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read this coffee talk once again. There are still some characters who were introduced in Episode 1 that I haven’t yet touched upon, and I will try to include them in the discussion for Episode 2.
Like the first episode, Episode 2 is another introductory episode which shows us more about the characters and the world of Nueng Dao Fah Diew (One Land One Sky).
Episode 2 has a recurring theme – that is, unlocking a mystery. If in episode 1, everyone was presented like a Kollabot, in episode 2, everyone seemed to be wanting to decipher it. Almost every character in NDFD keeps a secret and another character is intent in unlocking it.
The first secret that appears in Episode 2 is how our heroine Mangmao, being the modern woman that she is, does not just one, but two “progressive” things that are unseemly for a woman of her time to do – first, she dresses up as a man, second, she does this in order to defy her father and escape a marriage introduction appointment. She proves that she isn’t called troublemaker for nothing. She further seals her reputation when she sees a secret passageway set up in town, right outside the palace walls of Ayodhaya. The local villager explains that this passageway was set up in order to shield the noble ladies from the prying eyes of the peasants as they go out and about for a festival. This sets the tone of the lakorn as our ever-curious Troublemaker Mangmao, instead of heeding the advice of the market lady to stay away, decides to explore and join the peeping toms in town in order to see what was behind the said passageway. Mangmao quips, “The more it is hidden, the more I want to know more about it!”
We later on find out that Mangmao’s curiosity does not only get piqued by hidden passages. After a brief “discussion” with Aok Luang Khanthin who saved her from a beating (more of that later), we see the same curiosity get the better of her when THE Kollabot falls into her hands.
As luck would have it, Troublemaker Mangmao comes across a dying man, later on identified as Aokya Sriradecha, who hands her the flask with a butterfly seal. Sensing that it is something of great importance, as the nobleman practically died for the thing, she brings it home and decides to figure out what is inside of it. At first, she sees it as a blank piece of paper, but her brother, Muang, with his experience with working with paper (as they own a paper factory/mill) realizes that a Kollabot is written inside two pieces of paper pasted together. The way the kollabot was packaged in such a discreet way and how the letters seem not to make sense just boggles Mangmao and makes her unable to simply let it go. She said so herself – the more something is hidden, the more she wishes to know more about it.
But what is this Kollabot about, in the first place? Than Jao Khun Phollathep gets asked this question by his lackeys, particularly Khun Pranai, Jaojom Phen’s younger brother. Just like Mangmao, Pranai is shown as a character who likes to question things. In episode 1, he asks why his cunning older sister blindly follows a witch doctor’s advice, and in Episode 2, he asks why her otherwise confident sister and her wise confidant, Than Jao Khun Phollathep are so distressed about a kollabot.
Yet unlike Mangmao, Pranai gets told off easily and he quickly loses his resolve and just blindly follows orders. His saving grace is that he still pledges loyalty to the land and is appalled to know that Phollathep and Jaojom Phen may have done some traitorous thing in the past, yet he weakly decides to go with the flow when Phollathep assured him that what they did was just for their own (selfish) good.
Nevertheless, the audience gets a glimpse of what the Kollabot is all about. We learn that it had something to do with the previous battle – the same battle “won” by Ayodhaya through the Inwa king’s unexpected and sudden death. Had the Inwa king not died, and the Kollabot had been transmitted to the Inwa, then the same Kollabot would have been a game changer and should have caused Ayodhaya’s defeat. You might ask, why this whole thing still matters since the battle is over and Ayodhaya already survived. For one thing, Phollathep is still in power after the war, and the Kollabot puts him at risk of getting charged with treason, once it falls into the hands of the authorities. Worse, he is predisposed to do it all over again, with the looming threat of another invasion by the Inwa during the new king’s reign. Who is the villain now? The Inwa, or Ayodhaya’s own people?
Aokya Sriradetcha is among those nobles who are loyal to the land and was highly suspicious of Phollathep, especially after Thief Khunthong’s death. We also learn that the Kollabot had been in Thief Khunthong’s possession when he was killed in Episode 1, as he had intercepted the spy who was to bring it to the Inwa. After Khunthong’s death, it was obtained by Aokya Sriradetcha, who was killed in Episode 2 – and now the same Kollabot is in the hands of Mangmao.
To sum it up, it is revealed that both Khunthong and Aokya Sriradecha were killed through Aokya Phollathep’s machinations, just because they possessed the Kollabot – by now, the audience must be thinking, what will become of Mangmao?
Don’t fret, as our heroes are here to the rescue. We learn more about Khanthong’s mission in the palace and why he was working there in the first place. It is revealed that Khanthong, Nan and Panhan were contacted by an unknown benefactor after Khunthong’s death. They were tasked to infiltrate Ayodhaya as spies in order to learn who the traitor is. Presumably, it is the same traitor who was in cahoots with the Inwa and caused Khunthong’s death. Conversely, using the same logic, Panhan and Khanthong conclude that whoever must have sent them to find the traitor must be a good guy. While their conclusion is faulty at best, I have to say I can’t blame this trio for thinking that way. Two novice monks and an ex-militiaman took the leap and risked their lives for this mission, with only their wits, skills and their good intentions about them. Whoever had the guts and the genuine intent to help the land must be truly noble indeed.
Khanthong desperately tries to get clues as to who the traitor is, but he does not seem to be aware of the existence of the Kollabot. It is only after Phollathep and Jaojom Phen panic after the Kollabot disappears that he learns of its existence.
Early on in Episode 2, Khanthong admits that has never met a woman like Mangmao before – and his observation suddenly becomes an important clue in his mission. No one, absolutely no one could be a more fitting holder of the Kollabot other than Mangmao. He easily saw through her disguise earlier. Not only that, he is already well aware of her curious and mischievous character. Khanthong is sure that she would have kept the Kollabot instead of just throwing it away. Indeed, in a realm of possibilities, this pairing just hit a hole in one.
Unfortunately for Khanthong, his stay in the palace likewise uncovers another mystery, that is, the death of his mother, Khun Thao Salika. In his quest to look for his father’s killer, he gets more clues about the death of his mother who used to work as a palace lady-in-waiting. In Episode 1, he confirms that his mother was strangled and someone had covered it up and made it appear as though she committed suicide by drowning in the glass pond. Just when a woman truly decides to commit suicide in Jaojom Phen’s palace, Khanthong discovers that Jaojom Phen and her slave, Luern, seem to be averse to Khun Thao Salika, thus making Khanthong even more suspicious of her involvement with his mother’s death.
While dealing with the mysteries in the Palace, Khanthong, as Khanthin becomes a mystery himself. Heeding the spiteful intrigues insinuated by the three eunuchs in the palace, Aokya Wang starts investigating Aok Luang Khanthin. He wonders why the mysterious eunuch always goes off alone, and even prefers to hang out by the glass pool, which is deemed ominous by most people in the palace since it is the passageway to transport corpses outside the palace walls. Yet Khanthin easily turns the tables against Aokya Wang by using his pretty eyes and falsetto voice (with the ever sweet “Jao kha!”) to make the alarms go off Aokya Wang’s head, in a completely different way.
Sure enough, Aokya Wang’s stalwart stance is no match for Khanthin’s surprisingly manly, and aggressive advances. As a side note, it’s funny how Aokya Wang looks at Khun Ratkthewa’s flirtation as harmless, while he is completely undone with Khanthin’s (fake) seduction. Deaw Suriyont, Aokya Wang’s actor, commented in the Behind the Scenes special that James Ji did well in having a dual role for this series, and I couldn’t agree more. Although James was obviously cast for this role as his soft, effeminate features are perfect for a eunuch-in-disguise, his actual portrayal is made in such a way that he is manlier than even Palad Saran, the macho Sheriff he played in Padiwarada (Dare I say it, with all my motherly love for him in my heart, Khanthong is even manlier than James Ji himself! *Sweatdrop*). The way he walks as Khanthong is brusque or even unrefined (being an outlaw’s son as he is). His motions are also snappier and his reserved emotions are more intense. The best part for me is seeing him act as though he is acting. In those times he was being a soft character, being a eunuch in disguise as he was, he acts as though he is struggling to tone down his toughness, from the way he tightly clutches his hands as he walks, to the way his shoulders remain stiff (compared to the hunched and sometimes even “fluid” shoulders of the other eunuchs, yet not braced back proudly, like Aokya Wang’s.) Nothing highlights this more than the scene between Aokya Wang and Khanthin in Episode 2. Although Khanthong, as Khanthin, pretends to be happy that Aokya Wang shows interest in him, he advances like a panther going for its prey. He is sleek yet tough – so tough, that the normally dashing Aokya Wang falls in his knees like all the fangirls fainting at this YY moment. Those who are fans of James Ji know that he can easily play a sweet character, and he is normally affectionate and snuggly – so if Khanthin were truly a soft eunuch like Khun Rakthewa, he could easily have played him that way. But observe how apart from his soft facial features (and his … soft spot for Mangmao), nothing else is soft about Khanthin (well… take Yuern’s word for it, in the coming episodes.) Khanthin is stern, upright and tough and lacks the tender flirtatiousness of the characters previously played by James.
Khanthong and Nan’s lives (and manhood) are threatened when a spy, disguised as a eunuch, is discovered by Aokya Wang. He thus conducts an inspection which Khanthong and Nan barely pass, due to Aok Pra Sri Ratchakan’s quick thinking. In any case, the incident reveals just how precarious Khanthong and Nan’s situation is, and it is unknown whether the spy works with them or is an enemy. It likewise foreshadows the fate of Khanthong and Nan in the event that they are caught in their charade – will they drink poison, like the dead spy, to avoid having to confess? Or will they just flee before the threat of execution becomes more imminent?
Meanwhile, our Troublemaker Mangmao has to deal with troubles from her own end. Apart from having the mysterious Kollabot in her hands, which she is still trying to figure out, she also had to deal with her spurned lover, Kla, who decided to join forces with Khun Pranai in order for them to get their hands on the Kollabot – and for Kla to get his hands on Mangmao.
Good thing Panhan already has the tip from Khanthong that Mangmaos is now a person of interest and he gets to rescue them on time. Muang, Mangmao’s brother, advises her to forget about the Kollabot as it will bring her trouble in the future.
Yet as Mangmao tries to forget about the Kollabot, another kollabot brings her closer to the palace. Jaojom Phen presents a difficult kollabot for the ladies of the palace to solve in order to buy time for Than Khun Phollathep to get his hands on THE Kollabot. They are all afraid that whoever obtains the Kollabot will present it to Krom Khun Vimol, who would, in turn, tell the king. Jaojom Phen thus distracts the ladies with a mind boggling kollabot who no one in the palace can solve. (Un)Fortunately, Krom Khun Vimol knows that her Troublemaker, Mangmao is the only one talented enough to help them solve the puzzle. Thus, she is summoned to the palace.
In order to summon her, Krom Khun Vimol first sends Aok Luang Srimanoraj. Embodying (and even upholding) the traditional and outdated way of thinking of the old nobles, Srimanoraj chastises Set-thee Ming for the reprehensible way he had raised his daughter, Mangmao, by letting her roam around instead of making her a meek and subservient woman. Yet Modern Woman Mangmao would have none of Srimanoraj’s tirade, and pretends to be sick in order to avoid having to go back to the palace with him. She even writes a letter complaint to Krom Khun Vimol, hoping to get retribution by having Srimanoraj scolded. Seeing through her plan however, Krom Khun Vimol sends Srimanoraj away and instead sends Aok Luang Khanthin in his stead. Khanthin easily charms Mangmao’s household, yet Mangmao knows that Khanthin is not as sweet as he seems.
Let’s backtrack a bit to the first part of Episode 2. As you may recall, Mangmao’s curiosity gets the better of her in the early part of the episode when she decides to spy on the covered walkway, together with the village peeping toms. Aok Luang Srimanoraj discovers them and mercilessly whips those who have acted indecorously. Good thing Khanthin easily sees through Mangmao’s disguise and saves her in the nick of time.
Khanthin shows her some kindness by lecturing her in order to convince her not to do it again. He warns that her family loves her and would not punish her as harshly compared to other people who wouldn’t have qualms in hurting her. Further, he takes her father’s side and tells her to just obey him and stop causing trouble. Yet instead of being remorseful, Mangmao argues that she’s not causing trouble for the sake of making trouble. She’s actually protecting her own interests, as a lady, which her father can’t protect her from himself.
Mangmao further lets him know her views about marriage. She tells him that if she ends up marrying a man who is not to her liking, she would only end up miserable and would have to go through the trouble of breaking the marriage off – and so all her father’s efforts will be in vain in the end. To avoid needless trouble, she would have to avoid getting married altogether. In other words, she implies that it’s good to be a troublemaker now, than be a troublemaker in the future. This effectively throws Khanthong’s lecture about discipline and filial piety out the window. Not only that, Khanthong is already unfamiliar with women as it is, yet Mangmao is a modern, willful woman and no book or Buddhist teaching has ever taught him about how to deal with her.
Yet one would wonder, why is Mangmao suddenly flashing a cute smile at Khanthin (or his back for that matter)? Does she like getting scolded? Probably not. Is she starting to like him? Perhaps. Does he remind her of someone? Likely.
For all Mangmao’s toughness and incorrigibility, she actually has a very soft spot for her father, which is obvious from the get-go, but will come to fore in the succeeding episodes. When she tells Khanthin off when he advises her to obey her father, she does not do it out of spite at all. The truth is, Mangmao is a Daddy’s girl, through and through. Not only does she share personality traits with her dad (she got her dad’s cunning – as can be seen by the way Ming fools Mangmao and gives her a dose of her own medicine), she likewise loves him to bits.
She is well aware that her father only does what he does in order to protect her, and his explosive temper does nothing to lessen her adoration and love for him. Also, she knows just how to make those cute puppy eyes in order to remind her father just how much of a sweet and darling daughter she is. Thus, when Khanthong takes her father’s side, something unknowingly snaps into place, without Mangmao knowing what hit her. It’s the age old lakorn trope – a daddy’s girl would likely fall for a man who shares her father’s traits. In this case, it’s Ming’s protectiveness, authoritativeness and cute way he gets angry (more of that in Episode 3) are some of the things that he and Khanthong share.
In any event, back to the last part of the episode, Khanthong successfully gets to convince Mangmao to report to the Palace in order for her to start solving Jaojom Phen’s kollabot. On the way however, Khun Thao Sopha, one of the strict Ladies-in-Waiting decide to test her skills. The episode ends with Mangmao showing her skills and seeing through Khun Thao Sopha’s trick, much to Khanthong’s amusement.
Khanthong’s fancy is tickled, at the very least, and he finally sees Mangmao as more than just a mischievous girl. This is the other mystery yet to be solved in this episode. Khanthong’s curiosity on Mangmao is piqued as well, as he starts to want to get to know her better.
So that’s that for Episode 2. Episode 3 gets more exciting as we have more scenes between Khanthong and Mangmao. Also… we get to see the other main characters of the story for the first time. Please stay tuned! See you in the next coffee talk! ~Greta