Hello everyone! Welcome to another coffee talk for Nueng Dao Fah Diew (“One Land, One Sky”). For those who have read the coffee talks for Episodes 1-3, I thank you for stopping by to read my ramblings. Thanks again to P’Fia for letting me guest write this coffee-talk series, and for Humbledaisy for suggesting the term “coffee-talk”. Thank you also to those who left comments. Hope you guys join in the discussion here too!
Let’s do a very quick recap shall we? In the first episode, we saw how the story was presented like a kollabot, with characters and plot points shrouded in mystery. In the second episode, everyone seemed eager to uncover the hidden meanings of things. In the middle of all this deception and covering up, in episode 3, we find our hero, with something true and genuine – new feelings “blossoming”; while a character who genuinely loves the land likewise appears. Episode 4 progresses further as our characters, most especially our hero, unwittingly reveals more about himself. Yet would these revelations actually resolve things, or will it just make matters (more) complicated?
The episode begins with Aokya Wang warning the eunuchs about the possible infiltration of the palace by spies. Aokya Wang was alerted by the discovery of the dead spy by Mangmao (and Khanthin) towards the end of the previous episode. He thus warns the eunuchs about falling into a trap and getting enchanted by spies who are masquerading as gigolos in order to gain entry into the palace. Sure enough,
one of the eunuchs is missing, but Aok Luang Srimanoraj makes an excuse for one leg of his posse and Aokya Wang lets its slide.
Said eunuch had slept in *ahem ahem* with his paramour and Aok Luang Srimanoraj goes ballistic. It doesn’t end there however, as while the male paramour is getting escorted out of the room, it is revealed that he is the lover of the other leg of the posse – imagine that, hitting two stones with one bird… er… I mean… yeah, you get what I mean.
Nan spies on them and realizes the two eunuchs’ secret and keeps this handy information to himself, for now.
The eunuchs aren’t the only crafty ones. Jaojom Phen decides to join the King’s hunt for elephants which was scheduled as early as last episode. Khanthin warns her that she must take care of her health as she is carrying the royal baby, but Jaojom Phen claims that she is confident about her son’s fortune. Her ulterior motive, however, is that she wants to: first, make sure the other concubines don’t one up her and second, she wants to lure Mangmao into the forest so they can fish out the Kollabot from her, one way or another. Khanthin was thus tasked to extend Jaojom Phen’s invitation to Mangmao, who, in turn, smells something fishy about the invite already. Her father nevertheless tells her to go, as she has no choice on the matter, it being akin to a royal decree. In any case, Mangmao joins Krom Khun Vimol’s crew instead of being in Jaojom Phen’s entourage.
Aok Pra Ratchakan assigns tasks to the eunuchs, and he places Khanthong and Nan with the King and the rest of the men, in order to avoid any slip ups. Krom Khun Vimol goes against Aok Pra Ratchakan’s plans however, as she personally delegates Khanthin as Mangmao’s personal guard.
Being her personal guard meant Khanthin had to hang around Mangmao all the time, including bath time, and oh boy, did he turn pink. (To be fair, it’s his first time to see her… shoulders.) When he looks all flustered, Mangmao accuses Khanthin of playing a trick on her, but what she doesn’t know is that her revealing clothes revealed to Khanthong something about himself too – that he he’s a real man with real feelings after all. He is left with no choice (again) other than to walk out on her as Nan takes the chance to search her cabin – only for Jaojom Phen’s maid, Luern, to beat him to it.
While bathing, the maids spot peeping toms and Khanthin immediately springs into action and runs after the perverted men. Mangmao, in panic, “borrows” Khun Rakthewa’s clothes and runs after them, in order to save her friend. Mangmao never saw Khanthin as a “man” before, so it’s adorable how protective Mangmao is of Khanthin.
She gets the shock of her life when she realizes he didn’t need any rescuing at all, after seeing him fight so fiercely, singlehandedly leaving the peeping toms in a heap on the ground.
Khanthong is unable to cover up this slip and for once, he is able to show her that he’s actually a capable man – and yet at the same time, he knows that blowing his cover would jeopardize the mission, and her. That night, as they watch some festivities, he dismissively mentions that he had to learn self defense with all the chaos happening in the palace. In any case, despite trying his best to hide his feelings, feelings blossoming between a man and a woman just can’t remain hidden and inadvertently shows. Aok Pra Ratchakan easily sees Khanthong’s glow from the shadows.
Aok Pra Ratchakan reaches the tipping point and decides to castrate Khanthong after seeing him suddenly having feelings for Mangmao – as though mission-oriented Khanthong, who was supposedly like Aok Pra Ratchakan, suddenly became a pubescent male who wanted nothing more than to hang around his crush. Aok Pra Ratchakan likely figured that Khanthong might just stay longer than necessary. Yet, to castrate Khanthong when he was well aware that he was a man, being a man, just shows that Aok Pra Ratchakan is a control freak who is not only a stickler for rules, but he also doesn’t give people room to grow, thus maintaining status quo. All he wanted to do was to let Khanthong finish his mission so he can leave, or conversely, make him lose his manhood so he can stay for as long as he likes without fear of him (or them) getting beheaded due to treachery.
More glaring though is Aok Pra Ratchakan’s motives. Aok Pra Ratchakan is a traditional man – a man of his word, as though his word is the only thing that is left of his manhood. He pledged his life to the king as a eunuch of the palace. At the same time, he accepted payment from Khanthong and company in order to let them slip in. In his hope of adhering to his two solemn oaths, he chose the best compromise that he can think of, that is, to ensure that all his subordinates are indeed genuine eunuchs, and at the same time, that nothing hinders Khanthong from legitimately staying in the palace for as long as he wants in order for him to carry out his mission. To reiterate, Aok Pra Ratchakan has a one-track mind, and work is his life. Despite having this incessant cough for so long, he gets the job done, no matter what. That’s what makes him manlier than most of the other men in Ayodhaya’s court. As a man who cannot have children, and cannot leave a legacy, Aok Pra Ratchakan lives in the present and lives day by day just carrying out what he had been expected to do all along. Instead of covering up everything, just like what Jaojom Phen and Phollathep are doing, Aok Pra Ratchakan actively works to do what he thinks will correct what he had done wrong.
After drugging Khanthong (who surprisingly was still able to talk and move despite being given a big dose – I mean, come on! He has his manhood at stake here! He had to produce all the adrenaline he can muster!) Aok Pra Ratchakan proceeds with his plan to castrate Khanthong – in a scene which P’Fia accurately described as the scene that made all the men who watched the lakorn cry in fear and hold on (to their crown jewels) for dear life.
In any case, while Khanthong watches in fear as Aok Pra Ratchakan prepares to castrate him (the horror!), the scene shifts to our big bad villains who go on panic mode as they were unsuccessful in getting the Kollabot from Mangmao. Aokya Phollathep orders to have Mangmao killed off while she is in the forest and so some wise guy (I don’t know who exactly, as the lackey is just shown bribing the elephant whisperers) decides to put something in the elephants’ food (weed?) and this ultimately makes them go on a rampage.
It tragically ends with Aok Pra Ratchakan getting mauled by an elephant, which causes his instant death. The absurdity of this scene is actually funny and tragic at the same time. Both eunuchs and elephants are part of the age-old traditions of Thai Society. In fact, the elephant is the national animal of Thailand. Yet why is it that the nation’s symbol is the one which ultimately kills the supposed vanguard of age-old Thai traditions?
Aok Pra Ratchakan, despite all the reverence given to his position, symbolizes the stagnation of society, more particularly of the nobles in their time. Eunuchs are status symbols after all, who are kept in royal courts to uphold the traditions and the elaborate, intricate, and often impractical customs of the royals back then. That some of them come from foreign kingdoms, such as China or Turkey, just shows that they’re hired as a way to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, so that the royals in ancient Ayodhaya are sure that they are very much as “regal” as those from the other kingdoms. The eunuchs live in the present, as they have and the eunuchs before them have lived in the past – with no outlook onto the future. Ceremonies and traditions are rendered useless in the face of war and changing times, as will be emphasized in the story later on. As it is, Aok Pra Ratchakan is already ill, since his first scene in the lakorn, symbolizing how age-old traditions, especially the superficial, empty ones, do more harm than good in the world they were living in. Contrast that with the robustness of the sacred elephants, who, more than horses, can carry out tasks and bring about progress (more of that later on, especially with King Taksin’s own elephant in the last episode) by pulling up and pushing down one pillar at a time.
Ultimately, the eunuchs were rendered useless, as societies progressed – and Aok Pra Ratchakan is a tragic embodiment of that “phased-out” class. Perhaps this is why despite his small role, and the legitimate scare Aok Pra Ratchakan gave our hero, Khanthong, he is still mourned by the latter and he harbored no hard feelings for him. It is also a pity that not much was said about the eunuch’s role in society in Ancient Ayodhaya, yet perhaps it’s because not much is written about them in Thai history to begin with. They were a highly respected class, just as they were feared – and also their being “incomplete” humans earned them scorn and ridicule. Their lack of heirs ultimately led them to be forgotten. In the lakorn, we see a respectable yet corrupt eunuch like Aok Pra Ratchakan, and the scheming and lustful ones like Aok Luang Srimanoraj and his posse. The nicest of the bunch is Khun Rakthewa, but he is often a comic relief more than anything. And of course, the nameless and silent eunuchs who we randomly see in the background. For a lakorn which features a hero disguising as a eunuch, it would have been nice to see more about what a real eunuch was like. In any event, with the bits and pieces that are revealed to us, we, the audience are able to see a glimpse of what they were like. Yet just the same – the fact that we can only see bits and pieces about them can perhaps shed light into the triumph, as well as tragedy in their lives.
Perhaps it is but poetic justice that the scheme employed by our villains came biting them back with a vengeance. Jaojom Phen loses her chance to be the queen mother as she suffers a miscarriage. She never does find out who caused the elephants to go on a rampage, and we can only wonder what she would have done, had she known. Instead, she is fooled into thinking that the death of her unborn child is part of destiny as her fate is to give birth to a blessed heir to the throne in two more years – or so the crafty Aokya Phollathep claims to have been said by Jaojom Phen’s witch doctor. Jaojom Pen, in her wits end, believes this lie and bounces back to her old evil scheming self.
Meanwhile, Aok Luang Srimanoraj hears about Jaojom Phen’s miscarriage and easily blames Khun Rakthewa for not taking better care of her. The haughty eunuch learns about Aok Pra Ratchakan’s death however, and suddenly assumes that it’s time for him to get promoted. Our villains have a common denominator, don’t they? They all have tendencies to count their chickens before they hatch!
Enough of our villains; let’s go back to Khanthong and Mangmao, shall we?
Mangmao, Mae Pao, Nan and Khun Rakthewa were in the middle of the forest, hoping to find some wild animals, when the whole elephant fiasco happened. Instead of going with the group to safety, Mangmao impulsively goes back to the camp for Krom Khun Vimol. This is the second time in this episode that Mangmao had been gung-ho about saving someone – this time, for her Krom Khun Vimol who she loves so much. Does that mean she holds Khanthin dear too, that she had to run after him to rescue him in the beginning? Well… it’s just episode 4 so we don’t know for sure – but what is certain is that she does end up rescuing Khanthin this time around. He is still debilitated with the numbing potion he was given, but that doesn’t stop him from having his mind on full alert. Phollathep’s lackeys are out to get Mangmao, and Khanthong, in his half dead state (Princess Bride? Anyone?), barely rescues her, although for the most part, Mangmao is able to hold herself on her own in a fight.
Khanthong is unable to shake off the stubborn Mangmao and so instead of urging her to save herself, he devices a plan to kill her assassins, his paralysis notwithstanding. And this is where it gets illogical folks. In that limited time that they have, Mangmao (upon Khanthong’s instructions) is able to gather supplies, sharpen pieces of wood, create a trap, hang it to a tree and get all the angles right when they, presumably haven’t been in that forest too often. But hey, it’s lakorn, so just take it as it is.
In any case, forget about the lack of logic as there is a cute tender moment that gets revealed here. Make that two. First, our stubborn and rebellious Troublemaker listens and obeys without question, for once. They say the worst times bring out the best in people and had Papa Ming seen how skillful and yet obedient his daughter is, he would have been so proud. Muang had mentioned that Mangmao needed a mature man for a husband so she will listen to him and he can keep her in check… well, Mangmao already found her match; too bad Set-thee Ming was just not able to see it.
Second, we realize that while she isn’t one to let herself be helpless, she can be a damsel too and Khanthong wants to do everything in his power to protect her. He keeps her calm and quells her impulsiveness with just a few whispered words. When the action happens, he shouts his order for her to close her eyes to keep her still and stop her from panicking. But after that, he lies there, helpless and unable to comfort her when she opens her eyes again and sees the bloody mess. It tears him apart, but all he can do is call her name in a tender and yet desperate voice.
With the same fervor, she shakes off her fear and runs to Khanthin and asks how he’s doing. These two care a lot for each other, and this pattern will repeat and intensify in the coming episodes. Khanthong always has this urge to protect Mangmao, and even when she can protect herself, nothing comforts her more than holding Khanthong close.
Khanthong wakes up at night and doesn’t know how long he had slept. The bricks on his head quickly fade to lightheadedness (^__^) when Mangmao checks his temperature as soon as he wakes up. She explains that he had been feverish and it worried her greatly. He is unable to admonish her for touching him (as he did in the earlier episodes) since he was too dumbfounded with her closeness and her touch. He slips and mentions that he got the fever from the drug that he was given, but quickly evades her questions by asking her to cut him some slack as he had just woken up. He concludes that they had no choice but to spend the night together in the forest as it was too dangerous and futile to travel on foot in the wilderness at night.
Khanthong admires her for being able to build a fire, despite being a noble. Mangmao, in a rare display of humility, says she is not noble, and they just happened to be rich. Also, she flatly states that she knew how to build a fire since anyone who played around in the kitchen would know that – implying that she did play around in the kitchen and didn’t close off her world to those areas that were usually limited to servants and not frequented by masters.
This revelation by Mangmao plays an important role in the following part of the episode where Khanthong, unwittingly reveals more about his backstory to her.
It starts with Mangmao asking Khanthin to tell her a bedtime story as she is unable to fall asleep. Of course, Khanthong is well-read, as we can infer from his vast knowledge of things. He could have told her any story, instead, he tells her the story that is closest to his heart – that is, the story of his origins. It could have been just a simple plot/screenplay device, especially considering not much was explained about how he knew Turkish, or how he was easily able to assimilate himself in the Palace, despite being raised as an outlaw’s son. But then it is good to think that Khanthong’s subtle revelation to Mangmao reflects his innermost desire to share something more “real” with her – to let her hear a true story amidst his disguise and deception. Mangmao sees him as a friend, and she is becoming dearer to him too. That their relationship is built on a lie must have been painful for an otherwise honest Khanthong, especially considering how honest she had been with him too. He thus tells her the most authentic story that he could. She is, after all, a rich girl who plays in the kitchen – she won’t judge!
Khanthong’s story starts with his grandparents, who are both from the merchant class, thereby making him belong to the same class as Mangmao. His maternal grandfather was from Turkey and his paternal grandfather was from Ayodhaya. The Turkish man had always been jealous of the Ayodhaya man and his jealousy “was like fire that burned everything”. Basically, the Turkish man burned their bridges and their friendship in order to get what belonged to his best friend. The Turkish man framed the Ayodhaya man for being a rebel and his whole family was summarily executed – except for the Ayodhaya man’s son. In his dying breath, the Ayodhaya Man tells his son never to forget the treachery caused by his best friend, and his son swears to get revenge. This starts the story of “noble” Bandit of Ayodhaya, who robbed only the evil merchants, sent a warning beforehand, and took only what was stated in his prior notice. Talk about an outlaw who observes due process! He gives the spoils of his conquests to the poor too and so he was not only notorious but widely celebrated too.
At this point, Mangmao tells Khanthong that she recognizes the story he was telling her – that it was about her very own idol, Tiger Khunthong. Khanthong is surprised to know that she knows about him – and Mangmao tells him that he’s so famous, no one would not know him. Mangmao reveals to Khanthin that her family was saved by Tiger Khunthong (first scene in episode 1), and that he can’t tell her any lies or fictional stories about him because Mangmao personally saw him and knew how great he was. Khanthong tells her that the story he would tell her is something which she has never heard before.
Tiger Khunthong realized that it was time to exact revenge on his father’s murderer. He does this by plotting against the Turkish Man’s own daughter, Salika, who was of age and was about to be married off to a noble for their family’s status to get raised further. On their wedding night, he kidnaps her in order to lure both her new husband her father out.
Tiger Khunthong’s plan turns out to be a blessing in disguise as not only is the nobleman ugly, he’s a weakling and a coward too! The nobleman saved himself and flung his wife to Khunthong’s sword so he can escape. Remorseful as he had not intended to hurt her, Khunthong brings Salika to his camp and heals her wounds.
The gentle Salika, who had to witness her lover abandoning her, wakes up to the sight of the bandit who kidnapped her as he prepares a poultice for her wounds. Talk about irony! She creates an irony of her own as the proper lady Salika suddenly turns feisty and awkwardly flings a sword at Khunthong to show him that she won’t give up without a fight. (To be fair… he did ask her to pull her shirt up… so he can apply medicine to her wounds, but still, they haven’t even introduced themselves yet! Any proper lady would want to skewer him too.)
Khunthong is powerless against this lady as he walks out on her, but not before he leaves her medicine (“angrily”) by the door. Khanthong narrates that “at first they hated each other, but before they knew it, their feelings turned into love.” No truer words have been said. In any case, Khunthong keeps Salika in his camp but she still misses her parents. Her parents have sent armed men to retrieve her, but Khunthong defeated and killed them all. Salika asks whether Khunthong’s thirst for revenge has been quenched and she opens his eyes to the unbroken chain that hatred has created. She said that those people he had killed would leave behind families who would want to kill him too and his hatred and wrath would just grow and grow until all of them are consumed by it.
Ultimately, Khunthong sends Salika back to her family. She realizes however that things are not the same. Her ugly cowardly husband refuses to take her, or even acknowledge her, saying that they never consummated the marriage and for all he knew, Khunthong already beat him to it. Salika is still chaste as nothing happened between her and Khunthong, but her “husband” would have none of it – then he says the most painful thing of all. He says that perhaps Khunthong is tired of Salika that’s why he abandoned her in the first place. This breaks Salika’s heart as her “husband” walks away and leaves her in tears for the second time.
To Salika’s relief, Khunthong comes back for her one day, only to check how she was doing after he heard about how the pathetic coward had discredited Salika again. It was then that she realized her “husband” had been completely wrong – Khunthong was not tired of her. To her relief, he even tells her what he has kept in his heart all along – that he loves her. He asks her if she loves him too and we are given this crowning moment of waffiness.
Salika thus abandons her family as Khunthong abandons his revenge. They start anew in the village and have a small yet warm family, with an adorable son. The mother taught her son how to read, write and speak both Thai language and Turkish. His father on the other hand taught him how to fight and survive in the forest.
The story takes a turn for the worse as Khanthong tells the rest of the story in a dead monotone. His mother is successfully retrieved by his grandfather and Khanthong is unable to save her. She is sent to the palace as a court lady while Khuthong entrusts Khanthong to his teacher, a monk who is well versed in … well… everything. Khunthong worked hard for the country, hoping to gain merits, enough to rescue his wife and make their family whole again, but unfortunately, we all know how his life ended. Khun Thao Salika was accused of poisoning the King and allegedly commits suicide as well.
By this time, numbed Khanthong finally realizes that Mangmao is bawling by his side, as though she were doing all the crying for him.
Mangmao tells Khanthin that he’s cold hearted for telling her such a tragic story, little did she know that the real tragedy was how he had to steel himself for the tragedies of his past. She says it would be impossible for her to sleep at that point. Little did she know that with the tragic story, she had earned a friend. Khanthong just revealed his heart to her, without being too obvious about it, of course. Slowly but surely, Mangmao has softened the barriers that Khanthong placed around his heart. Not only was she able to make him smile again and laugh again, though he didn’t outwardly show it, she is able to make him mourn too.
Amidst these revelations, Khanthong still had to remember his mission as well, and so he again asks her about the possible reason why people are after her. Despite them being friends, or perhaps, precisely because they are friends, Mangmao opts not to tell Khanthin about the butterfly flask with the Kollabot for fear that their lives might be put further in danger. Although Mangmao is friends enough with Khanthin to be willing to die with him, she isn’t ready to trust him with her family’s life just yet.
The episode ends with Mangmao returning safely to the palace, and the news that a new eunuch must be appointed. Phollathep reveals that he’s the true mastermind of the nefarious plan involving the Kollabot and Jaojom Phen has been his pawn all along. Phollathep and his men are now more eager to get the Kollabot through any means possible. This spells more trouble for our heroes and promises more action in the upcoming episodes.
Over all, the revelations in Episode 4 point to one thing – that the people in society are flawed. Each person goes through different problems and the heroes are those who triumph over these flaws and problems. Fate is somehow affected by the Buddhist concept of Karma, or what is more universally known as the concept of what goes around comes around. This chain can only be broken by something pure and noble as love – and this love, no matter how much we try to suppress it, just comes out naturally like geyser waiting to burst.
Well it’s going to take a few more episodes before Khanthong’s geyser explodes (at least we are sure Khun Elephant is safe and sound), but until then, I’ll see you guys next time in the next Coffee Talk. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! ~ Greta