As Mangmao finds a lovely flower that blossomed in an unexpected place, a beautiful feeling likewise blossoms in Khanthong’s heart.

I hope you guys are as excited for this coffee talk as I am. It’s in episode 3 when the story of Nueng Dao Fah Diew (One Land One Sky) finally progresses in the love department. The characters have been introduced, and the conflict has been laid out. Finally, in episode 3, we get to see more interactions between Khanthong/Khanthin and Mangmao and they finally become allies after bickering in the first two episodes.

First, let’s start where we left off from episode 2. Krom Khun Vimol summons Mangmao to the palace in order to solve Jaojom Phen’s kollabot, which the court ladies are unable to crack. Khun Thao Sopha gives Mangmao a brief quiz, which she manages to answer easily. Although Khanthong expected her to get it, he is amused with her intelligence and sarcastically praises her for it. From his smile, it’s clear to see that the annoyance that Khanthong had for her initially is starting to turn into delight.

Guy smiles cheekily and girl decides to throw daggers at him with her eyes. In lakorndom, that spells the beginning of love, all right.

Soon they arrive at the Palace, and the ladies all find out that Mangmao has a lot on her plate. Krom Khun Vimol thus suggest that Mangmao stay overnight at Khun Thao Sopha’s residence in order to give her ample time to solve the kollabot. Just when he thought his baby-sitting stint is over, Khanthin is ordered to escort her to Khun Thao Sopha’s residence himself.

Of course, nothing is ever smooth sailing when Mangmao is concerned. The worst part, for Khanthong, is that Mangmao discovers Khanthong’s nickname in the palace – i.e. “Phor Pan-yhee”. Phor Pan-yhee is a literary character, who, to my understanding, is like the Thai equivalent of a Don Juan, or even Prince Charming. Normally, Khanthong would have been honored to have the title, yet Mangmao finds it hilarious because it is a backhanded insult to the proud and upright Aok Luang Khanthin. For those who weren’t in on the joke, to call a eunuch a charmer is like calling a pauper a prince. Khanthin is seen by the women as the one they all like, yet they know is pointless to have, being an incomplete man as he was a eunuch.

Just when he was trying to make a good impression, everyone seems to cramp his style, while in his own turf to boot!

Instead of being sorry for her rudeness (by laughing at Khanthin’s moniker), Mangmao further shocks Khanthin’s senses by telling him outright that… she needed to pee. Khanthong is unable to stop himself from chastising her for being unladylike, but brings her to the proper place for her to relieve herself.

Yet, salt is rubbed even further to his injury when the palace ladies note how pitiful he is that he had to wait outside for a girl in the restroom – but all is well, since he’s not a real man after all, but a mere eunuch. OUCH!

It isn’t the first time that James’s character was embarrassed by waiting outside the toilet for a girl. Except that as Puttipat, despite all his gentlemanliness, he was accused of being a pervert, while as Khanthin, he was deemed completely harmless for he was barely seen as a man. Clearly, we can see from their expressions above which scenario is a bigger blow to a pra’ek’s male ego.

It still doesn’t stop there. Just when he thought that Mangmao’s level of respect for him cannot get any lower, what with his manhood (or supposed lack thereof) being stepped on over and over on the way to Khun Thao Sopha’s house, Mangmao brushed off Khanthin’s good intentions when he stayed out of her room in order to preserve her honor and dignity. (It was improper for an unmarried woman to have a man in her room). Who’s going to worry about my dignity with you here with me, she asks, making it clear that she sees him not as a man at all. It’s one thing to be friendzoned, but for a full-fledged man to be seen otherwise is a completely different thing altogether. Mangmao continues to prod Khanthin into answering her questions, including one that she didn’t know would cause (more) insult. She asks Khanthin about the cloth hanging from his waist, and it is here that he reveals the ordeal that eunuchs have to go through after being castrated. Mangmao realizes her rudeness and sincerely apologizes. After seeing her visibly and genuinely remorseful, Khanthong realizes that Mangmao isn’t being haughty or spiteful all along, in fact, she just had the innocent curiosity of a child.

It is at this moment that we hear the melody of Khanthong’s song, “Keep”, for the first time. I guess we could say that it is at this point that a seed of a feeling is finally planted into Khanthong’s heart.

Khanthong easily forgives her and this can be seen as the end of the war between them. Notably, she pesters Khanthin to stay with her despite having Mae Pao, a woman who is of the same age, there in Khun Thao Sopha’s residence. Mangmao says she isn’t comfortable staying with Mae Pao as they’ve only just met and prefers the company of Khanthin, who she has been bantering with since the first time they met. It just goes to show that she likes him more than she thinks. Being the oddball that she is, she finds it hard to connect with another girl of her age. Yet another misfit like Khanthin is a welcome company for her. It is the start of a beautiful… friendship.

Mangmao is like a breath of fresh air to the obedient and gentle lady, Mae Pao. In the same way, Mae Pao serves as a foil for Mangmao, as the former exemplifies the ladylike qualities that Mangmao does not often display. One is a jasmine, while the other is a wildflower.

Friendship is not the only thing forged in Mangmao’s stint in the palace. She likewise earns another suitor… or perhaps, two? That night, unable to solve the kollabot, and unable to sleep, Mangmao decides to take a walk in the palace. Meanwhile, Aokya Wang and Khanthong come across each other while doing their respective patrols. The tension between them is diffused when they hear sounds coming from the glass pond. Expecting a ghost, Aokya Wang’s men are relieved to find her instead, pondering about Jaojom Phen’s kollabot.

She again gets chastised for acting improperly and being a troublemaker, but in contrast to the uptight Khanthin, Aokya Wang automatically finds her charming – and goes on prince charming mode to Mangmao, much to Khanthong’s (unconscious) dismay. Despite promising not to be rude to him again, Mangmao tells Khanthin to learn from Aokya Wang’s example by talking with her calmly instead of berating her – and calling him Phor Pan-yhee in a fit of annoyance.

Again, it’s one thing to cramp his style, and quite another cramp his style before a manly man who has his flirting game on. Who’s the Phor Pan-yhee now?

Khanthin walks out in a huff, but Mangmao soon runs after him. But instead of leaving her alone to fend for herself, Khanthin still walks her back to Khun Thao Sopha’s palace, albeit he makes her tiny legs catch up with his long gait. Mangmao correctly guesses that Khanthin isn’t really mad at her, but what she doesn’t know is that he is actually … embarrassed more than anything. This embarrassment stems from him not being seen by her as a man. Yet just the same, he can’t do anything about it as he is forced to keep his disguise for his mission. The only thing left to do was for him to suck it up and walk away. This whole dilemma nags Khanthong to the core, although he hasn’t realized it yet at this point.

Mangmao candidly admits that she finds Khanthin so cute when he’s angry. Whether he reminds her of her cuddly papa bear dad or not, we don’t know for sure, but her observation is undeniably on point.

Think of it this way, Khanthong had never been bothered with the fact that he is seen as only half a man in his whole stint in the palace, in contrast to his friend Nan who had a hard time fitting in. He got along with the palace ladies just fine … until this troublemaking girl comes along and he doesn’t want to be just a half-man before her anymore.

Khanthong isn’t really sure as to what was happening, but Mangmao has shaken him enough for him to make him have feelings which he had never felt before.

But before Khanthong can regain his bearing, Mangmao grabs Khanthong’s hand and gives him a champak flower, which she unexpectedly saw blooming in the ominous glass pond. She says that she thought of keeping the rare flower for herself at first, but decided to give it Khanthin as a peace offering. A bit flustered, Khanthin points out that a gift that isn’t well thought of doesn’t really count – yet it is obvious that he is low-key touched by her gesture. When Mangmao cutely tells him that she hopes they have a ceasefire by the morrow and that she wishes he won’t be mad at her anymore, Khanthong is left completely undone.

I bet there is no other smile that has infected him with such happiness before.

Khanthong retreats to his quarters and cannot wipe away that sappy smile off his face. As his song gently plays in the background, we all know that the seed of love is now slowly taking root in his heart. Who would have thought that in the same glass pond where his mother had drowned, a mischievous girl would be able to pick a flower that is able to touch him so profoundly? More than amusement, more than delight, Mangmao is starting to become something more to this young ex-novice monk. A mere memory of her touch makes him go to his own happy place. Now, let’s not even go to her cute smile.

The smell of the champak flower is so fragrant that it precedes it. In the same way, Khanthong is starting to feel affection for Mangmao before he can even realize what is going on.

Yet before he can indulge and explore the feeling of having his first crush, Khanthong takes a reality check and admonishes himself to stick to the mission. He is in the palace to avenge his mother and father, he thus has no time to think about “unnecessary things”. Khanthong gently sets aside the champak flower in a safe place as he grabs his spy gear and gets back to work.

Now that we’re on the topic of love, I must introduce the character who I have skipped introducing in episodes 1 and 2. We all know by now that Khanthong is a kind, gentle guy, and that he is confident enough to disguise himself as a eunuch and not be a victim of womanly wiles. To prove that point, we have the character of Yuern.

Yuern was a noble lady, whose luck changed after her father was at the losing end of a political war and had their assets seized. She was abused in the most horrific ways by other noblemen until she finally became a slave in the palace. We first see her as Aok Luang Srimanoraj’s slave who he and his lackeys have decided to whip for spilling tea. Khanthin comes to her rescue and takes her under his wing. Despite warnings from Aok Pra Ratchakan, Khanthin keeps her at his house and Nan comments that Khanthong’s discipline is something else as he shows the least bit of interest in her, despite her being so beautiful, and being literally, at his mercy. Khanthong brushes it off as something insignificant and payslittle attention to her, although for the first time in a long time, Yuern receives humane treatment from Khanthin.

Yuern, unlike her indifferent master, falls deeply infatuated with him. She mistakes his gentleness for affection and she often grumbles that it’s a waste for him to be a eunuch as he is everything a girl could ever ask for. When she pricks her finger with a needle, Khanthin treats her himself, remembering a time in his childhood when someone (presumably his mother) was in the same situation. Although he has no romantic feelings for her, Yuern misunderstands and hopes to be as special as the woman in Khanthin’s memory (of course she had no clue that he was probably talking about his mother….)

Mangmao’s touch put butterflies in Khanthong’s stomach, but touching Yuern’s hand meant nothing to him.

It’s pitiful that Yuern’s infatuation with Khanthin turns destructive as time progresses. She becomes a thorn to Mangmao later on.

So far we’ve had puppy love and infatuation in episode 3. Next we have a more fiery kind of love courtesy of Mangmao’s older brother, Muang, also in this episode. In contrast to the innocent puppy love between Mangmao and Khanthong, Muang has an indiscreet relationship which turned into a passionate affair with a harlot named Soon. His love for her not only wrecked his marriage, but also caused him to have multiple fights with Kla. Yet the same fiery love that he has for a lowly prostitute earns the respect of Panhan when he encounters them in the brothel.

Muang is serious about his lover, Soon, and instead of judging them, Panhan gives his support.

Set-thee Ming’s children, despite being raised in an affluent family, saw love for what it was. They could have both married well. Mangmao could have married a decent, boring chap which her father chose for her, while Muang could have just stuck with his decent and loyal wife. Yet both siblings decided, instead, to pursue “true love”. Indeed, the cliché that love transcends class and other social boundaries is true, at least for this set-up. For an outlaw like Panhan, Muang’s loyalty for Soon counted for something.

In any case, the introduction of Soon, Muang and Panhan does not really do much for the love story of NDFD, but serves, instead as an intro to the political side of it.

Panhan soon learns that the best place to do reconnaissance work is in the brothel. The who’s who of Ayodhaya come and go to seek entertainment there and it’s practically the grapevine for information. The powerful man who secretly runs the organization is none other than Than Khun Phollathep and Panhan soon realizes that he is at risk of blowing his cover. Phollathep soon realizes that Khunthong’s forces may be onto something and he knows their revenge may mean getting their hands on the Kollabot in order to implicate him.

Phollathep’s thugs run after Panhan’s group and a battle ensues. Khanthong shows up in the nick of time and aids his Uncle Panhan. He arm gets wounded in the swordfight and is about to lose when….

*Enter badass tribal music*

Seriously…. It was so hard to get this screenshot since hot Got Jirayu just keeps on moving so quickly with his badass two-sword style.

The historical figure, Luang Pichai-Asa, brought to life by none other than the hot Got Jirayu, shows up and kicks some butt. Luang Pichai-Asa is most famous for fighting with two swords, using his own unique style, which is a mix of Muay Thai and Chinese martial arts. It is said that he fought even with a broken sword (and won). He has his own movie, that is, Legend of the Broken Sword Hero, but that’s another story. Anyway, Luang Pichai-Asa is not the only historical figure who graces our screens in Episode 3.

Veteran actor, Aum Atichart, plays Phraya Taksin (soon to be King Taksin the Great), the supra-pra’ek of this lakorn.

Phraya Taksin finally makes his appearance as he claims to just be passing by and was in the right place and the right time to rescue both Khanthong and Panhan from Phollathep’s lackeys. (Spoiler alert: You’ll soon realize that it’s not true come episode 15). Right away, we see the awesomeness of his character and he is shown to be noble and upright, unlike the crooked politicians in Ayodhaya.

Phraya Taksin tells Panhan that the only reason why he rescued them was because he saw that the enemy was using underhanded tactics. He also tells Panhan, who he has recognized from those battles that they fought together with back in the day, that he would have to arrest them if they do not disclose why the lackeys were after them. Khanthong reveals himself and states that what they are doing is for the good of the land. He swears by the gods that they are not doing anything wrong although he cannot tell them any more as their benefactor instructed that what they are doing must be kept in utmost secrecy. Phraya Taksin sees the honesty in Khanthong’s eyes and lets them off the hook, while Luang Pichai Asa gives Khanthong some medicine as well as some tips on how to fight.

With an innocent face like that, how can Phraya Taksin possibly doubt him?

After they leave, Panhan gives Khanthong a background on Phraya Taksin. He is a good man from the merchant class (not a nobleman) with Chinese lineage. His valor and vast knowledge of war strategies earned the respect of the people and soon he was chosen as a ruler of a northern town named Tak.

Phraya Taksin embodies noblesse oblige, despite not being of high birth. He is promoted into a leader due to respect which he had earned from the people and he thus acts honorably.

Khanthong vows that he would not ever be able to forget Phraya Taksin and at that point he becomes his hero.

Panhan and Khanthong discuss what happened and they realize that Phollathep is out to kill Panhan, because he is Panhan, and not just because he had helped Mangmao in episode 2 (during the river chase). Khanthong soon connects the dots and concludes that the traitor that they’ve been looking for and the man who killed his father, and also the man who threatens to kill Mangmao, is none other than Than Khun Phollathep.

With this new knowledge, Khanthong returns to the palace and dons his disguise as Khanthin once again in order to find more clues against his archnemesis.

Yet back in the palace, he gets distracted once again with his other subject, Mangmao. She is still having trouble in solving the Kollabot and thus asks for more time to think. On the way back to Khun Thao Sopha’s residence, Mangmao discusses her predicament with Khanthin in hopes of getting a clue. Yet, Mangmao’s stomach grumbles and they agree that she can’t think on an empty stomach. Khanthin thus brings her to his house for some refreshments.

Mangmao eats like there’s no tomorrow and Khanthong finds it so cute. Yuern has other ideas however.
Soon he sends Yuern away in order to have some privacy as he flirts with Mangmao… I mean, as he gives Mangmao a clue on how to solve the Kollabot.

Khanthong calls Mangmao by Krom Khun Vimol’s affectionate moniker for her, and she forbids it, but he calls her “Troublemaker” just the same.

He makes her swear however not to tell a soul that he has helped her as he says that he doesn’t want to be the subject of any intrigues in the palace.

After Mangmao successfully solves the kollabot, our villains suddenly feel threatened and Jaojom Phen takes the initiative to invite her over and see if she is wise enough to solve THE Kollabot. Meanwhile, she sends her slave, Luern, to Mangmao’s room in the Khun Thao Sopha’s to see if she is in possession of the Kollabot.

After giving Mangmao fake pleasantries, Jaojom Phen presents her with a mirror bearing her emblem – a golden butterfly. Mangmao recognizes it right away as the same emblem that seals the flask containing the Kollabot. Instead of panicking however, she maintains her calm and keeps a mental note of her latest discovery.

A golden butterfly that grows from a thorny caterpillar, it is but fitting to be used as Jaojom Phen’s personal emblem.

Khanthong, upon learning that Mangmao is within enemy ground, worriedly fetches her. When she does appear, unharmed, he defensively says he did not care about her but was only following Krom Khun Vimol’s orders to watch over her. Mangmao does the complete opposite and was just about to tell Khanthin that she sees him more than that (in contrast to the way they were in Episode 1). She is so friendly with him that she touches him, and accidentally hits his wound. Khanthong recoils and brushes off his wound as nothing, but then scolds her again for indecorously touching him – Mangmao replies that there’s nothing wrong about touching him as he isn’t ….

…Isn’t a man, Khanthong finishes for her, and Mangmao soon realizes her mistake, again. She apologizes for her lack of tact, and Khanthin easily forgives her once more, saying she didn’t say anything that wasn’t true – that indeed, he isn’t a man. Mangmao relents and says she shouldn’t hurt his feelings nonetheless as he is her friend.

It’s the first time that Mangmao’s theme is played with a slow melody, and we know that mischievous girl who calls eunuchs as those who have “their thing cut-off” is now starting to mature, even just a bit. She is friends with a eunuch now, yet why does she feel hurt for hurting Khanthin whenever she refers to him as someone who is not a man?

To see him as a friend, but not as a man. It’s a step down from being friendzoned, I guess.

Back at home, the family rejoices as Mangmao’s feats in the palace earn her some rewards, and …. A gentleman caller. Set-thee Ming is glad that his daughter’s smarts finally paid off, and finds a good catch in Aokya Wang. He lightheartedly asks about her favorite food and her.

Mangmao is faced with a half-man who she sees as a friend, and a macho suitor who she sees as … nothing. It’s safe to say #TeamKhanthong still has the ball in his court, no pun intended.

As Mangmao’s family dreams and plots to have her settle down with Aokya Wang, Mangmao has yet another suitor… I mean, visitor, in the person of Khanthong.

He briefly escapes the palace and “disguises” as a commoner in order to have some free time with Mangmao. He decides to take advantage of their newfound closeness as “friends” and decides to get more clues regarding the Kollabot.

She finds him funny without the eunuch robe, instead of realizing that a common man’s garb is more befitting. For all Mangmao’s belittlement of his male ego, perhaps he’s checking if his (not so) little buddy is still there.

Mangmao and Khanthin, as friends, talk about Mangmao’s run in with Kla in the river. She also starts to tell him about the Kollabot but they get interrupted when they come across a spy’s corpse. In her fright, Mangmao quickly grabs Khanthong for a (tight) back-hug. Once Khanthong gets over his initial surprise (from getting hugged by his crush) he instructs Mangmao to report the incident to Aokya Wang.

That back-hug though… *squeal* (cr: Khun Pin Nathanan, the producer, Pin21years)

Khanthong tells Mangmao that he’d be in trouble if people find out that he escaped the palace when he was with Mangmao. She thus assures him that she will not tell a soul that he was there when they discovered the corpse, after all, that’s what friends are for!

Aokya Wang is elated to see Mangmao once more, and is amazed that she didn’t seem the least bit fazed about seeing a corpse. The whole time, Aokya Wang is visibly smitten with Mangmao, but she doesn’t know her own charm. She talks about how it’s not the local’s habits to kill each other for sport, but Aokya Wang says, with a grin, that she’s a woman and she probably doesn’t fully understand these things. In this scene we see Mangmao’s different interactions with the two different love interests. First is Khanthin who she doesn’t see as a man, but as her friend. Next is Aokya Wang, who embodies the manly Phor Pan-Yhee archetype yet she isn’t the least bit charmed by him.

Both men take an interest in her, but both have different perspectives on the matter and of her. Khanthong sees her for the mischievous troublemaker that she is yet finds her bubbly warmth as a balm to soothe his troubled heart. Aokya Wang on the other hand sees her as a pretty girl with all her innocent charm – but still a woman who a hero like him can charm and protect. To drive home the point, Khanthong sees her have a skill with Kollabot and opts to solve it with her. On the other hand, Aokya Wang tastes her favorite dessert and asks her if she knows how to cook it. The beauty of the love story between Khanthong and Mangmao, which will unravel itself more in the next episodes, is that Khanthong does not do anything to impede Mangmao’s growth as a person, in contrast to Aokya Wang, and Prince Chate, or even Kla. All the other men want Mangmao as a wife, to stay at home and take care of the kids, so to speak. But Khanthong serves as an encouragement to Mangmao instead, and still lets her go off on her own troublemaking way. Perhaps that is the beauty of her being his first love, and him having come from monkhood and not having a traditional (old school) way of looking at a relationship.

In episode 3, we also come to realize what the value of having a make-pretend eunuch as a pra’ek is all about. The lakorn plays on the “not-so-gay best friend” trope (man-hating girl falls in love with a guy pretending to be gay) – except here, Khanthong is not seen as a man by society or by Mangmao altogether. In the end, this makes Mangmao appreciate Khanthong more as a person, first and foremost, before him being a man. Of course when she realizes he is a man… oh boy! You guys just have to wait some more for the coffee talk for that.

So that’s it for episode 3! Episode 3 ends with Aokya Wang warning the eunuchs sternly about spies, and that he suspects that the easiest way to infiltrate the palace was to disguise as a eunuch. This spells trouble for Nan and Khanthong as their cover might be blown sooner than they think. WOW! This coffee talk is the longest so far. Are you guys still there? Feel free to chime in anytime, and let’s discuss the story to make my coffee-talk entries longer (haha just kidding P’Fia!) But seriously, just holler and let us know what you think! Thanks again for tuning in! ~Greta