NDFD Episode 5: Hide and Seek by Greta
Posted on March 16, 2019
Hello everyone! Are you guys still there? I have to apologize for taking such a long time to churn this out since I’ve been busy with other things. (Shameless plug: Don’t forget to watch Krong Karm! It’s really very good!) Without further ado, I give you Episode 5 Coffee Talk for Nueng Dao Fah Diew (One Land One Sky)
In the previous episode, more aspects of the story are revealed to us viewers. In this episode, our characters step back by not only continuing to conceal their secrets, but also hiding their motives through tricks in order to get what they seek.
Episode 5 opens with Than Khun Phollathep and his lackey giving their condolences to Jaojom Phen for the loss of the royal baby, not once hinting that they had something to do with the elephant rampage that caused her child’s death. They feed her with more lies – that is, the corrupt Inwa monk, who Jaojom Phen blindly believed, had prophesized that she should not feel sorry for her loss because her son, who is destined to be the real heir to the throne, is yet to be born. Jaojom Phen believes this of course, and goes back to her old scheming self.
With Jaojom in high yet wicked spirits again, the characters deal with the second death in episode 4, that of Aok Pra Ratchakan. Aok Luang Srimanoraj and his posse are quick to assume that he would get promoted, being the most senior among the palace eunuchs. Khanthong anticipates it too, so he moves desperately to lay low and save those who he can in order for them not to be unjustly subject to Srimanoraj’s wrath.
Too bad for Aok Luang Srimanoraj, Jaojom Phen has another trick up her sleeve. She tells the other court ladies of Srimanoraj’s ill temper and how he has poor rapport with the ladies-in-waiting, making him unsuitable to be the Chief Eunuch. Jaojom Phen proposes instead to promote someone who is more neutral and amiable – someone who would be able to work with everyone…. and it’s none other than Aok Luang Phor Pan-yhee himself, Khanthin.
Nan cockily quips that before the unexpected promotion, they didn’t know which person people referred to when they used the title “Aok Luang” – but now it’s clear that Aok Luang is to Srimanoraj as Aok Pra Sri is to Khanthin. Srimanoraj and his posse leave in a huff, and their victory party turns into a sobfest.
Yet Khanthin’s promotion is just another trick. No one is more surprised about it than Jaojom Phen’s brother. He confronts Jaojom Phen and tells her that he really doesn’t like Khanthin as something about him doesn’t feel right. Jaojom Phen brushes off her brother’s qualms as naivete and lets him know about her ulterior motive instead. She says that she was trying not to have her rival’s (Mae Aumphan’s) favored eunuch to be promoted as that would put her at a disadvantage. Instead, Khanthin who is supposedly neutral, already owes her a favor (or more) since she was the one who caused his promotion. Little did she know that Khun Pranai was actually right about this one – that Khanthin/Khanthong was actually out to get her. Also, it is actually Jaojom Phen who is the naïve one, not Khun Pranai. She reveals to her brother that she has amassed a lot of wealth in her stint as a royal concubine, and she mistakenly believes that Ayodhaya would be rich and prosperous forever. Even when the country’s people are suffering, she believes that she would only continue to amass more wealth and live as a queen forever. This of course is a wicked, if not illogical notion. Indeed, people outside Ayodhaya are already suffering and slowly succumbing to the Inwa. History would tell us that kingdoms do fall – and Ayodhaya would indeed fall towards the end of this lakorn, and as early as Episode 5, the viewers are shown exactly why.
The Inwa are supposed to be the villains in this lakorn, yet their thick black eyeliners notwithstanding, the Inwa nobles are actually far more noble than those of Ayodhaya’s. Sure, they always sound angry and scheming when they are shown, but when it comes right down to it, they are actually presented in a better light (or perhaps the nobles of Ayodhaya are presented in a worse light?) The King of Inwa is focused, if not obsessed, with the destruction of Ayodhaya, as he had made it his mission to redeem his father’s honor and bring pride to his country. Yet he does not go impulsively but instead heeds the advice of his elders and thinks about the welfare of his people. He doesn’t proceed with haste as he doesn’t want to waste his country’s resources and his men’s lives. He mentions that he wanted to give his people time to rest from battle but the exigencies of the times make him unable to do so. Although the King is wrathful, he is considerate, and he gives the same consideration to his men, regardless of their origins. He is wise too and has learned from the past and so their battle plan is based not merely on impulse but takes into account weather, political, scientific and other conditions which had worked against them before.
Chiang Mai and Dawei, provinces located at the north and south of Ayodhaya, respectively, had previously been invaded by the Inwa troops but the King of Inwa received reports that they’ve taken back their independence. He sends his two men, Nemyo Sihabodee and Mangmaha Noratha to reclaim Chiang Mai and Dawei. The Inwa Nobles are quick to point out that Nemyo Sihabodee is only half-Burmese and is half-Lanna (the ancient Kingdom found in North Thailand) so they doubt his skill and loyalty. Nemyo Sihabodee quickly vows his allegiance to Inwa and pawns his wife and children’s lives, such that the King may behead them should he fail in his mission. Yet the King of Inwa states that to accept Nemyo Sihabodee’s pawn would mean that he is doubting him and his loyalty, so he will not, since he does not doubt him. Such strong words from a liege show that he has full faith on his people and assesses them with fairness and no prejudice.
Juxtapose the King of Inwa against the nobles of Ayodhaya, more specifically, against the figurehead Chief of Defense, Than Khun Phollathep. A comparison of these two would clearly show why Ayodhaya lost in this battle.
Aokya Wang calls for a ministry meeting after hearing that the Inwa Troops are intent on reclaiming Chiang Mai and Dawei. Aok Pra Sri Khanthin is called too, in order to prepare food supplies in the event of an invasion. Khanthin quickly points out that the Inwa clearly intended to just reclaim Chiang Mai and Dawei and has no plans on invading Ayodhaya, at least, for now. He explains that the Inwa King would lead the troops himself, as it is a matter of pride and honor for a liege to attack another country’s capital, had the target been Ayodhaya. But since only Nemyo Sihabodee and Mangmaha Noratha were sent, it is clear that Ayodhaya was not the target. Nevertheless, Ayodhaya should send its troops to protect Chiang Mai and Dawei, as it was only natural for a country to protect its people.
Instead of noting Khanthin’s insights, Than Khun Phollathep brushes them off, saying that a eunuch has no business in meddling with state affairs – after all, what does he know? Such clear prejudice and close-mindedness are a complete contrast with the Inwa King’s sound judgment. Worse, the nobles of Ayodhaya agree that the idle troops of Ayodhaya cannot be sent to the far flung provinces and risk putting the capital in a vulnerable spot.
Yet at the same time, Than Jao Khun Phollathep leads the ministers to conclude that the best way to fight the Inwa is to continue on with the age old “tried and tested” ways to fight against the enemy. No innovation needed, folks. The rain and the gods will keep Ayodhaya safe – or so Phollathep and the nobles believe. So if the elements can protect Ayodhaya, why not just send the soldiers to Chiang Mai and Dawei then? The ministers brush off their loss of Chiang Mai and Dawei as insignificant. Who cares about the smaller towns, they say, when Ayodhaya remains strong and proud? They even had the gall to say that as servient towns, it was their duty to bite the bullet and fall, if need be, just so Ayodhaya can remain safe. What they don’t know is that the fall of these two towns will cause a chain reaction that would lead to disastrous results later on. Moreover, Than Jao Khun Phollathep’s machinations are yet another trick to give Inwa an undue advantage. It would only be after the present kingdom falls that Phollathep can usurp power after all. It’s thus clear that those who were supposed to save the people were the ones who sent them to their doom instead.
To put the Inwa attack into perspective, the map outlining the movement of Nemyo Sihabodee’s and Mangmaha Noratha’s troops found in the Wikipedia article re: Burmese–Siamese War (1765–67) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese%E2%80%93Siamese_War_(1765%E2%80%9367)) is illustrative.
Notable spots of the invasion are Tak Province (which is important to the plot, as this is Phraya Taksin’s province) and Bang Rajan (yes, as in the Lakorn/Drama “Bang Rajan”) which is a town north of Ayodhaya (not in the map but it’s north of Ayodhaya), but that’s another story. Dawei, which is referred to in Episode 5 is known by its old name “Tavoy” and was never recovered by Thailand after the Burmese-Siamese War. Chiang Mai, at that time, was under the rule of the Lanna Kingdom and there was a power struggle as it got invaded by Burma, then gained independence, to be invaded again, etc. Chiang Mai eventually became a vassal kingdom to Siam after King Taksin’s reign. At present it is part of (and a popular tourist destination in) Thailand
I guess what the screenplay writer wanted to emphasize was that Ayodhaya had all the aces to win this battle, but lost anyway due to the ingenuity of the Inwa and the laxity of the Ayodhayan Nobles. Remember that talk about Karma in episode 4? Well, good deeds and the concomitant protection from the gods can only do so much when people are evil and/or lazy and digging up their own graves. This is a lesson repeatedly taught by history and yet people never really do learn from it. It was chilling when the results of Mangmaha Noratha’s reconnaissance work led to the conclusion that the Thai troops are in a sorry state, and a worse condition as compared to that they had during the previous war. The Inwa King thus asks, what have the Thai been doing in all those years since they were last invaded? Indeed, the people at Ayodhaya wasted all the opportunities they had to win this battle, and it only fueled the Inwa King’s desire to destroy (not to merely invade) Ayodhaya even further.
Eventually, Mangmaha Noratha and Nemyo Sihabodee succeed in their missions, which puts Tak Province in a precarious condition. Phraya Taksin goes to Ayodhaya to ask for help, or at the very least, permission to recruit more troops to protect his small town. The nobles at Ayodhaya, led by Phollathep, ignore his pleas, however, and even prevents him from recruiting more soldiers in order to prevent him from becoming a threat, should he ever decide later on to rebel against Ayodhaya.
Phollathep’s prejudice against Phraya Taksin stems from the fact that the latter has included Panhan in his ranks. If you guys remember, Phollathep wants Panhan dead for being linked to Khunthong, and possibly having a lead regarding Phollathep’s treachery (i.e. The Kollabot) from the previous war. Phollathep then invites Phraya Taksin to his home and warns him not to associate with such people. Phraya Taksin states that it is precisely because Panhan used to work with the noble thief Khunthong, who served the people to his death, that he decided to take Panhan under his wing. Phollathep, wanting to get the last word, states that it was probably because Phraya Taksin was Chinese that he adhered to the belief of having a wicked yet useful man in his ranks, in total disregard of tradition and the elders’ advice.
Luang Pichai Asa feels mad for Phraya Taksin, but he quickly diffuses his subordinate’s anger by saying that they shouldn’t pay attention to Phollathep’s words in any case. Phraya Taksin adds that in this battle, a foot soldier who works with his limbs is, after all, more valuable than a politician who works with his mouth. No truer words have been said.
Before we go on further with the political affairs of the state, let’s take a short breather, shall we? Remember how I mentioned that the political side of things in NDFD developed in the same pace as the love story side of things? Well, with the political invasions underway, rules of engagement are also laid down for our lover boys.
Here we have three different guys, loving the same way, but placed in different starting points.
First up is Nan, who has been shown to be a flirt with the palace ladies, but is steadily enamored with the sweet, pretty and proper Mae Pao. But what was he to do when the only way to get close to his love interest was to emphasize that he was not a man? He is either tricking her or tricking himself, or actually, he’s probably doing both – thus placing him in the twilight zone, an imaginary world that makes sense but not really. Notably, Phet over acts as a eunuch at this point, and it only goes to show that he’s not used to acting as one as Nan is a real man – having real feelings for Mae Pao. He’s acting as a eunuch and acting like he doesn’t want to court her when he really does want to court her hence the tension. Would he be able to trick her at this rate? When Mae Pao touches his hand later in the episode, since it was perfectly fine, since they were more or less, “girl friends”, Nan suddenly asks himself should he be happy or unhappy with this development?
Next up is Khanthong, who has Mangmao all figured out by now. Instead of openly flirting with her, as what Nan is doing with Mae Pao, he pushes her buttons instead and gets the cutest reaction from her.
Yet for all Khanthong’s closeness to Mangmao, and vise versa, she sees him as a friend (nothing more) that his title as a newly promoted Aok Pra Sri has no bearing and she can use him as a means to escape another awkward meeting with the man her father wants her to marry, Aokya Wang. While Khanthin and Mangmao are indeed “close,” he is made aware that they cannot get any closer since the friendzone wall is hard to breach. Like Nan, he can’t do anything, in any case, as his mission prevents him from doing so. But even then, he faces the age-old dilemma of all those who are friendzoned – must he save the friendship by pushing away love, or pursue love and risk losing the friendship?
Set-thee Ming is appalled when Aokya Wang witnesses Mangmao touch (I think the more apt term is “cling to”) Aok Pra Sri Khanthin’s arm but Aokya Wang brushes it off as something any other noble court lady would do – as they have done in the palace since Khanthin is just like them anyway, being a eunuch and all. But he quickly notes the closeness between the two and how he was just basically seenzoned (or “un-seenzoned”) by Mangmao when he went all the way there to call on her. Here we have a man, acting as how a man should and yet he still does not get the girl. So, a man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do – He visits Aok Pra Sri Khanthin and asks the biggest favor: to put in a good word for him to Mangmao. Aokya Wang is not a knight for nothing. He employed the best strategy to openly challenge his rival (though he thought him unlikely to be one, with him being a eunuch and all – but still, just to be sure) and make him an unlikely ally. Khanthong is left with no choice but to acquiesce, sort of, though Aokya Wang’s attack just start to get the blood pumping in his heart. Khanthong’s confusion, or rather, suppression of his true feelings for Mangmao, just put him in a tight spot.
If things aren’t already complicated enough, yet another suitor comes later on in the episode, and sends everyone to a frenzy.
Later on, the moment Kromkhun Vimol has feared finally arrives. Prince Chate, the resident gigolo in the palace, has met the acquaintance of Mangmao and is smitten. He is famous for taking one concubine after another and discarding them like trash once he’s tired of them. His reputation is so bad that in the previous episode, a woman to be offered to him as a concubine chose to die through suicide instead. Many women want to be a wife (or even just a concubine) of a powerful man, but no woman in her right mind will want to be abused by this psycho. He’s yet another breed of man – a man, living as a man, who has all the power and prestige to get any woman he wants, yet he does not even act humanely. This guy’s trick is to … well, he doesn’t really need any tricks. He’s the crown prince after all and he can get whatever and whoever he wants.
Jaojom Phen wants to take advantage of Prince Chate’s infatuation however, and plots to have them meet more often so that she can create a rift between Kromkhun Vimol and Prince Chate while earning the latter’s favor at the same time.
Speaking of Jaojom Phen, let’s back track a bit and return to the plot. Jaojom Phen, for all her scheming and wickedness, is, ironically enough, quite illogical. Earlier, I mentioned that she is naïve enough to think that she would be queen forever. In the face of the Inwa invasion, she firmly believes that the country would not succumb to these forces and divine intervention would save them, as they had been saved in the past. Added to that is her blind adherence to a corrupt monk who gives her “love potions” and other incantations to let things go her way. This belief in the occult made Khanthong realize the best way to unnerve Jaojom Phen, possibly to rattle her enough to make her confess something.
In the earlier episodes, Khanthong already found out that his mother’s supposed suicide had been staged, and in fact, she had been strangled to death. He also came to realize that Jaojom Phen may have had something to do with his mother’s death, with her aversion to the glass pond (where Khunthao Salika died) and her fright at the mere mention of Khunthao Salika’s name. He thus concludes that the best way is to scare her with Khunthao Salika’s ghost.
Being a novice monk, notwithstanding, Khanthong could not summon his mother’s spirit at will and so he resorts to trickery instead, to let his enemy get a taste of her own medicine.
Khanthong takes advantage of being in the friendzone and begs Mangmao to do him a favor and pretend to be possessed by the spirit of Khunthao Salika. Why Mangmao agreed to his plan is beyond me, but you can charge it to them being best buds, I guess, added to the fact that Mangmao also has doubts against Jaojom Phen as she is connected to The Kollabot which is in her possession. In any case Khanthong gives Mangmao tips in order to make her act believable. He advises her to act like Jaojom Phen (hinting that the latter probably got her mannerisms from Khunthao Salika who was her superior before she became a concubine)…
…and he also told her about Khunthao Salika’s favorite food, which is “boiled white gourd with dried fish dip”. I am not sure how difficult it is to say it in Thai but it’s the infamous scene which took 3 hours to film (30 mins, and 30-40 takes according to the director and producer. It must have felt longer for James though *lol*). This is JamesJi and Taew’s first scene together, and he was probably so nervous, he messed up big time. (Taew is after all the master of old period lakorns and it was James’s first one. He struggled with the ancient language a lot.) They both laugh about it now, but even in the TV Special, James still could not say what the food’s name was.
In any case, Mangmao had to make do with the two sentences that Khanthong was able to pronounce properly… er… I mean, able to tell her about Khunthao Salika and somehow, she successfully spooks Jaojom Phen enough for her to (fake) faint.
Mangmao, after being made to drink about a gallon of holy water, is ordered to report to Jaojom Phen to see how she was doing. She takes this as an opportunity to learn more and investigate. Unfortunately for Khanthong, Jaojom Phen merely discloses to Mangmao what she already knew, albeit indirectly, about Khunthao Salika. Essentially, she tells her the same story that Khanthin tells her in the woods and she is able to piece things together.
Yet Jaojom Phen’s flashback only leads to more questions as there was no real quarrel between her and Khunthao Salika. In fact, they even seemed close. Why then is Jaojom Phen involved in her death? Instead of getting answers, we see another plot complication as Prince Chate sees Mangmao in Jaojom Phen’s palace. As mentioned earlier, he is smitten by her and decides to ask Kromkhun Vimol give her to him as a concubine. Kromkhun Vimol tells Prince Chate that Mangmao isn’t a palace lady so it is beyond her power to offer her to him. Prince Chate thus asks Kromkhun Vimol to put in a good word for him instead.
With a new suitor on board, how would Khanthong be able to handle things?
Well, how’s that for an ending (of episode 5)! I know that I didn’t discuss the opening picture – but…. To be candid, I was trying so hard to think of something smart and to figure out why they had to put Khanthong’s bathing scene out of nowhere. But apart from establishing that Yuern, like most of us, are starting to be attracted, or even lustful towards Khanthong, I can’t think of any other explanation for this fanservice. Is it another trick to throw us all off guard and keep our interest? I don’t know. Yet what I do know is the next episode is going to be super exciting! See you guys next time! ~Greta