24 December 2016

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Candle In The Tomb 鬼吹灯之精绝古城 - Episode 1 (Recap)

Posted by SakiVI on December 24, 2016
SakiVI: It's here, it's here, and for some horrible few days, I thought it wouldn't get subbed, but it's subbed! I lubs oo, Viki subbers! And I thought I would watch first, but whatever, I'm diving right into recapping. The story is in the same tomb-robbing genre as The Lost Tomb, and has a Fatty and an evil foreigner, but it's written by someone else, not Uncle Three. So, although I'm linking to past Lost Tomb and Mystic Nine posts, it's not actually the same universe.
kakashi: I'm not sure what pleases me more, this drama or SakiVI going crazy about the drama. Also, an aesthetic warning at the beginning. This is set in the 80s. The production company (Daylight) takes great care to make things authentic. The 80s weren't exactly, you know ... the high time of fashion. Beware of the hair! But in all seriousness, it's not as bad as some people make it.
JoAnne: That acid-washed jean jacket, though. And the page-boy perm. Just, no.

Episode 1

We start with lots of explosions. There's lots of soldiers shooting, and ooh, was that Jin Dong with a great big gun? (Sidebar: Yes, I know it's a rifle, but that's just not as amusing to say as "great big gun".)
'Jin Dong with a great big gun.' Yes! You're right! I will now walk around saying it all day, thank you.
Oh let's just make it unanimous, shall we?  'Jin Dong with a great big gun' there!
This is our hero, and his name is Hu Bayi. He goes from walking out and about in the battle to the trench, where he saves a comrade from bullet fire. (Someone help me out here because I know nothing about artillery.) I'm sure Jo knows all about it. Artillary is mortars and rockets and stuff, not personal weaponry. Then, he and the comrade reach out of the trench to fire at the enemy when BOOM! Big explosion! I think Bayi's side threw a bomb out. Anyway, looks like they won this battle because we next see Bayi minus helmet telling his men to clean up the battle field. Oh noes, more enemies! And the comrade Bayi saved before, Xi Zi, has been shot in the throat. That is sad. Bayi is sad. Oh, and it turns out he's furious too, because he grabs his rifle to shoot at the POWs they've got in a trench.
Jing Dong with a great big gun AND angry is not a good combination. This, I am guessing, is during the Sino-Vietnamese War?
Yes, I think there was a quick blurb at the beginning, but I only definitely saw the word Vietnamese.  I wasn't aware that this occurred in the 80s, though, so when the acid-washed jacket showed up I was shocked; they didn't exist in the 60s and 70s, which is when the Vietnam war happened for me. And I'm very glad you explained that these were POWS because for me, Jin Dong got pissed off when his friend died and then began shooting at his own men. Which seemed, you know, bad form.
Bad form to shoot at POWs too...
Cut to a train, and Hu Bayi in a sleeper car, dreaming of this same battle. He jerks awake with a cry, and sees all the fellow passengers looking at him. One cute guy looks at Bayi over his paperback. Bayi asks if they are almost there, and the cute guy says yes. Bayi leaves the carriage to mournfully gaze out the window - personally, I'd feel suffocated in such close quarters and would've stayed out by the doors - and the train arrives in Beijing. And here, I'd like to note that the actor Jin Dong is heck of a good-looking man if he can still be attractive in a mullet.
So he is traumatized a bit? Maybe a hint of PTSD? He seems a bit sad, too, you know, like someone returning from the army, not knowing what life's purpose is now.
I remember the vets, returning home when I was a little girl. Some of them were damaged beyond measure. And now, too, with all the fighting in the Middle East. Those guys are really traumatized - I know that's the least terrible thing that could happen, on a scale of death to PTSD, but still. We're not meant to experience such things.
At the station, a guy with long hair, stonewashed denim, and dark glasses, shoves our hero. He speaks in code to Bayi: "How dare you come offend your ancestors?" Bayi responds, "If so, I'll fall from the mountains and drown in the lake." This actually continues as a conversation for four more lines. Luckily, this is just a joke between these two. I was seriously concerned I was getting another Hendry Cox here. The men hug, happy to be reunited as old army buddies.
It was pretty funny, especially because it was so long. I want to talk to my friends like this.
The drama of your ancestors is pleasing to me. I praise all mountain-dwelling cowherds.
Ah, our new friend's name is Fatty (Zhao Da). And our hero is concerned that Fatty is skinny! calling someone Fatty when they're a fairly normal weight must be some sort of joke I will never get, but sure, let's go with it. Turns out Fatty used to be heavier, but is poor now and doesn't eat as much. Aw, what kind of socialist country is this?
The honestly shocked "Fatty, why are you so skinny?!" made me laugh out loud.
Three Fatties in three dramas in less than one year and in 50 plus years, I've never once met a person actually called Fatty.
I only know of the Lost Tomb and this: what's the third?
Big calls Bok Joo Fatty in Weightlifting Fairy (which by the why is the sweetest show going.)
Fatty takes Bayi on his bicycle rickshaw (he calls it his car :), which is a cart attached to a bike, and says you didn't take the job offered you. They discuss Bayi's father whipping him, but apparently that did not actually happen to a grown 30-something man, even though Bayi expected it, because his dad was so happy he was alive. And when they arrive at Fatty's room, Bayi's luggage is just one bag, and Fatty just has one cooking pot with a few noodles, and a single bed and wash basin. Wow. I'm actually crying for these two men. After risking everything for the Motherland, their lives are now terrible!
Fatty is chipper enough, but yes, those are no glorious lives.
Fatty seems okay with it, but Bayi sure gives everything a wondering eye.
 
Fatty also has lots of boxes of videotapes that he can no longer sell. Apparently, once business was really good, but not now because everyone gets things from Hong Kong. (Sidebar: there is a second bed!) And then Bayi offers to beat up whoever has been bullying Fatty because Bayi really wants to beat someone up. Well, we all need hobbies.
If that is what he knows how to do, no wonder. Beating up people can be satisfying, I remember from when I was little
There are a few people I'd have liked to smash to a bloody pulp, at various points in my life. I never did, because I'm quite certain I wouldn't have been able to stop.
I was never capable, but yes, I'd like to have at least arranged a beating for a few people.
Fatty brushes this offer off, and then they go to dinner. Ooh, they're going to eat lamb! The lamb is expensive and it's already clear these two are piss-poor. But there's a Chinese businessman selling jade to a foreigner over at another table. Fatty is irritated at the very sight of the man. The man is called Big Gold Tooth (no, really, he is), and Fatty's been looking for him for ages. Fatty had had his car towed some time ago, and to get the money to retrieve it, he sold a jade piece that his father had left him to BGT (look, this is just easier) for 300 yuan. But that jade was actually worth 2000 yuan! Urgh, that scum!
I love to see a familiar face! This actor's name is Yue Yang and he was so good in The Disguiser. He was scum, though not unlikable. 
I recognized him by the snaggly teeth. It's very odd but he looks really different to me here, and it's not like he was in disguise ever.
Fatty is about to smash a beer bottle on BGT's head, but Bayi stops him. Instead, the two of them go sit at BGT's table. Hu Bayi tells BGT not sell off cultural artifacts, and that he got this jade from Fatty. Hu Bayi says they need to talk, and they chase off the foreigner. Bayi tries to talk to BGT rationally saying that the jade is from Fatty's father, and offers the money back for it. But BGT doesn't want to sell for less than 3000 yuan now. He even says his ancestors were tomb raiders, pffft. Bayi and Fatty call out BGT for tricking Fatty, and BGT is all, you learnt a lesson. Bayi tells him you can either leave the jade or your gold tooth. Double pfffft. He even offers to go to the police station with BGT. BGT says fine, take the jade. Bayi leaves him the money.
Damn, this is unfair! I wonder why Bayi is so calm about it all though. Didn't he want to beat up people before? This would have been a perfect opportunity
I thought maybe he was being respectful of the surroundings.
If you ever watch documentaries or interviews with Ultimate Fighters, the mixed martial arts kind, those guys are very, very, calm. Because they know they can handle any fight and any pain, they are super-peaceful.  
Outside, Bayi scolds Fatty for his temper. Oh well.
It's not even that bad
Seriously.

Back at the lodgings, the boys are asleep when some people show up. Oups, Fatty told BGT where he lives way back when. Ahahaaa, you idiot! This is not going to go well, is it? Yep, BGT is there in a horrible suit with thugs. Bayi says they'd better face them all. As BGT starts blustering, the aunty from neighbouring room offers to call the neighbourhood watch. Fatty says, nah, they're just here to help him move his goods. They all go into the room, and it looks like Bayi has things under control.
He seems very calm ... even calming, yes. He might be working on his anger control daily?

Oh, what is that interesting bronze piece in his bag? Ohhhhh! Bayi basically offers to pay up. He has 600 yuan and BGT says not enough. Then he sees the bronze piece. It's a Feng Shui compass. BGT says he'll take the 600 and that Bayi and Fatty must, must, must show up at the restaurant for lamb meat at noon. Hmm. All I can say is, I'm glad my friends don't get me into weird situations. (Looking around as I recap on this blog.)
Ohhh, Goldie changed his behavior completely as soon as he saw the Grave Robber tools! This is exciting!! 
Kakashi, I think we've been challenged.
Teehee! Gotcha.
At the restaurant, BGT, okay, I'll call him Master Gold now, said Bayi handled everything so smoothly that he's very impressed. Master Gold (Goldie. I like Goldie.) explains his father was an ordinary tomb raider. (are there unordinary ones too?) Eventually, he moved the family to Beijing and traded in cultural artifacts. Bayi says, your dad never found a big zongzi, which, thanks to this other recap, I can tell you means dumpling. Zongzi is a tomb robbing code word that means well-preserved corpses that haven't rotted in the tombs. If you've met a big zongzi, you've met trouble. And Master Gold says he got his enamel gold tooth out of a tomb. Okay, that's just gross, dude.
Well, they do rob corpses in those tombs. And I can tell you, I never want to meet a big zongzi
Okay, which would you rather: Goldie and a big gun, or Bayi and a big zongzi?
Bayi and a big zongzi.
Master Gold goes on to tell our boys that his father and friends would use their noses, and then, later, the Luoyang shovel, which brought up all sorts of debris that would tell the tomb robbers what was below, even the decade the tomb was from and how it was laid out. So far, so like Uncle Three. But Master Gold has asthma, so he couldn't learn the smelling technique.
This is common Tomb Raider lore! I love it! 

Bayi says that his elders told him the really skillful tomb robbers don't use chisels or the Luoyang shovels, but will use geomancy to locate a tomb. Okay, we're going to get a lot of Feng Shui talk in this show, aren't we? (I might miss Ba Ye a bit!) Basically, excellent Feng Shui means a tomb of extraordinary treasures. Real tomb robbers like this look down on shovels and smelling dirt, says Bayi. Oh, now Master Gold is calling Bayi Master Hu! He's happy because Bayi knows Feng Shui and geomancy. Sidebar: are feng shui and geomancy the same thing?
No idea (I would guess they go hand in hand), but I AM EXCITED! And I love how watching silly tomb raider shows has actually taught us stuff
This is one reason I like them.
I knew that geomancy involved divination, and that feng shui was making sure everything is in harmony, including how you put things, where you put them, etc, but apparently geomancy is also the art of placing buildings and objects auspiciously, so it seems they share many attributes - but in the end I think feng shui encompasses geomancy, since the former is a philosophy and the latter is a skill or talent.
That makes sense. 
They go back to Master Gold's place to look at cultural artifacts. They look like engraved teeth, and Fatty has no clue what they are, but Bayi does: Tomb Robber Seals. Cao Cao, a military warlord from the Three Kingdoms' period had a troop that specialized in raiding tombs for financing military expeditions. Gosh, this sounds familiar. The official title is Gold Seeking Officer, and this is what some tomb robbers call themselves now. Bayi says his grandfather was a Gold Seeking Officer, but he only knows what he knows from his grandfather's book on the subject. The grandfather almost died after meeting a big zongzi. So, Bayi doesn't want to do this sinful work.
But he has the genes, the genes! He seems to have talent for it, right? 
I bet he even has done it but isn't saying.

But, Master Gold says, just go collect a few treasures, nothing much, really, not tomb-robbing at all. Way to rephrase, Master Gold! Bayi then looks at something from the box on Master Gold's coffee table. Why? Then, Master Gold shows them a bowl from Ming Emperor Wanli's time which appears to be worth 3 million or something. He shows other items that are extremely valuable. Anyway, the upshot is that Master Gold is ostensibly hiring them to deal with customers on commission, but wants them tomb-robbing. As Bayi rushes out, Master Gold presses the tomb-robbing seals on them.
They're in a pickle, really. This is probably illegal (I'm guessing), and Bayi knows it's also extremely dangerous - but they are really poor and have no future. Very tempting. 
Everyone should at least see one big zongzi in their lifetime, right?
I agree, at least one.
Later, Fatty and Bayi talk in their room. Fatty says his business is really bad. Bayi asks if he thinks Master Gold is reliable? Fatty says he doesn't know, but that he was amazed at Bayi's knowledge. He wants to go tomb-robbing. He argues most persuasively that the treasure in tombs is taken from common people and should be used for common people. Personally, I agree, but that an appropriate government agency should take charge. Bayi says he was in the army and that he can't rob tombs. Fatty says, look, we're just collecting the things. Pffft. Way to rephrase, Fatty! You learnt well.
Fatty probably has more in common with Goldie than he realizes.
Fatty reminds Bayi about a village they were once deployed at called Mount Niu'xin. Apparently, there was a Northern Song tomb there. Fatty says they can just buy pieces from the villagers and re-sell at a higher price. Fatty is so anxious that Bayi agrees. And he gives his limited edition Eagle Song mechanical watch to Fatty to sell for expenses and gifts for the villagers.
I fully understand why Bayi is cautious - I would be too - but I also understand why he agrees to do it. Better rob some tomb than sit in a shabby room and do nothing all day. 
Yes because there's NO other options. It has to be one of those two things.
I actually started thinking here what else he could do, and awesome secretary/bodyguard came to mind. Spy, too.
Been there, done that in Disguiser.
A few days later, our boys are at the train station. Master Gold gave them a fancy tv - for the 80s - for the village - valued at the same 600 yuan Bayi gave for the jade piece. Fatty thinks Master Gold was being nice, but Bayi points out that no, Master Gold will get this back somehow. And after some bickering, off they go.
Boys, I think you've just become part of something bigger than you. Happy tomb raiding! 
Whoo hoo!

Comments

So, our hero already knows how Feng Shui and the theory of raiding tombs. He hasn't done it before, so watching him try it out should be interesting!
So far this is just a setup episode, but I like it! All the characters were laid out nicely, and now we can rob tombs, er, I mean, redistribute wealth!
Wow, these episodes are short! I don't have a good feel for the characters yet, especially not our Hu Bayi. What drives him? He seems to have no plan, no real passion. He is just very cautious (unless he loses it like at the very beginning of the episode) and level-headed. I am looking forward to learning more about his skillz and the knowledge he actually does have about tombs. It's probably more than we think? 
Fatty is more straight forward - he doesn't seem to be a complex character. I hope he is a reliable friend, though, because I bet you need those kind of friends down in the dark... 
All in all, I'm struck by how dialogue-based this whole episode was. Hardly any scene changes, hardly any "action". And yet, intriguing! 
Bayi seems like that typical smart, sort of sensitive guy who either falls on hard times in his youth or was always better than his circumstances would predict (usually due to coming from a family that fell on hard times.) Fatty does seem pretty simple and straightforward. Goldie is an opportunist but I get the feeling that he's a better man than he might want to be.

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