Tientsin Mystic - 河神 - Episode 3 (Recap)

SakiVI: The investigation into the murders gets underway, and we finally find out who the dead baby's mother is, and its backstory. Poor Mao is the victim of a prank gone to extremes, though.
kakashi: Wonderful visuals. Wow. 
JoAnne:  I loved this episode - the story definitely picks up and we also start to see relationships developing. It goes without saying that the episode is just as gorgeous as the first two - I'm really liking this drama a lot.

Episode 3

Ooh, it's a Dark and Stormy Night!  We see an elderly man come into a room with food set up as an offering, and, he checks on a dead girl lying in state. (Seriously, why don't corpses rot in this Tientsin Mystic world? I once googled to see how long a body takes to decompose and it's not long. I also won't re-Google for you all because Google will show rotting corpses right up top.)
Not only did this corpse not rot, the girl's eyes were a tiny bit open. I was sure she was just asleep
I thought so too! As for the rotting bit...they have people lie in state for days and sometimes weeks, so it's possible. I suppose they don't embalm in this story, though?
Cut to the party part of town. Cool shots. And then we see Guo Deyou striding along and then we hear Gu Ying saying some sort of curse or prayer, not sure which. She wants someone called Luo Da Hai to return. Deyou tries to avoid her gaze, but no way Ying won't see him. And she does. He says he would've avoided her if he'd known she was there. Okay, that was mean, so good thing she didn't hear it. Turns out Ying is doing a rite to call back a missing son. Deyou tells her she's busy and he will go. Ying says she'll buy him a meal if he waits, and he says, no, last time you said that I had to pay. He strides off and she calls out to him, confusing the parents of the missing son. They ask if she isn't calling the wrong soul? Luckily, Deyou shows up - he was all tease, apparently - and says yes to the meal.
Not a tease, but he changed his mind because he suddenly had an idea. 
I wonder if this son will turn out to be important later.
Next, we see Deyou trying to get Ying to act as if she's in despair, like she was about to eat a hot sweet potato but it dropped, and then someone stepped on it. That kind of despair. Ying tells him to act it out first. After some squabbling, suddenly she gets into character so that Deyou is shocked. Apparently, she's to play a woman being forced to get rid of her unborn child by a horrible boyfriend. After they recalibrate, Deyou tells her to take that off. Ying is all excited thinking something naughty, but nah, Deyou wants her to put a bag under her dress so she can fake being pregnant. Girl, he's just not that into you.
This actress overacts, it annoys me a lot. But I thought it was funny that she was so happy they would "do it". How utterly unromantic!
She's overacting at a level that I would consider a deliberate choice. It's not a choice I would have encouraged.
Off they go to some weird, under the bridges night market. Quite scary. Really well done. A giggling man directs them to a midwife's tent. At the midwife's tent, Ying does a chant and dance because, er, that's what she does. And an elderly midwife warns her to watch her shoes as she throws out some slop. The same midwife points a nasty pair of scissors full of blood at them and says Ying's not pregnant, and they should go home because she doesn't want trouble. Deyou pretends they are servants for a young miss in trouble. Midwife says he's faking.
What was that woman cutting up in that tent?! She can't be delivering a baby (no sounds, lots of chatting). Gruesome. Haha, she immediately "saw" Ying was a virgin, how? 
That giggling man was creepy as can be, him and his weird duck.
Finally, Ying does a Curse. She grabs a smelly paint bottle from her bag and a paper and with great flourish, dabs random paint splotches on paper. She convinces the midwife it's a picture of a crying man, and that there's a lost child who became a water demon. Now, they need to find the demon baby. (Actually, I'm not totally sure what Ying said here, and I suspect it was deliberately a bit garbled to confuse the midwife and us.) Midwife says she can't break confidentiality, so Ying asks her not to speak, per the oath, but to write down any leads instead. And she gives the midwife a rune stone to protect her from harm.
What I thought she said. They need to identify the family of the dead child so that they can do a proper burial or, oh superstition, the baby will become a horrible demon. In any case, clever.
Yes, I thought it was find the baby so it doesn't become a water demon. Ying is a quick thinker, as we will learn. They're going to be glad she's on the team.
As they walk back, Deyou gives Ying a thumbs up. They have the names of three families to investigate. Ying says she has to spend her evil rune protection money. I think she wants a kiss on her cheek but I'm not sure because Deyou says she is talking about a rock and not money. Then, Deyou reminds Ying that this whole investigation is to solve Ding Mao's father's death.
I thought she was asking for a kiss, too, and assumed she was 'spending the money' on that, somehow. I think Gou Deyou is developing a real appreciation for her skills and if this was a Korean drama, they would definitely focus on a romantic subplot at the very least. Since this is China, though...we're just as likely NOT to get anything - fine by me in a story like this.
Cut to the Dragon Temple where Deyou and Master Guo live. Mao is luxuriously relaxing in a blue silk dressing gown with gold rimmed glasses, snacks, and lists of names. Even all covered up like this, he is very pretty. Deyou comes in - he knocks, so polite - and is amazed at Mao's setup. It's basically a steampunk mad scientist's lair. Gingerly stepping in, Deyou tells Mao to eat the food he's brought him and not to act busy. Mao says he's studying the lists of disappearances. Oh, the turtle is in a pot, poor thing. That's terrible!
Why? Because it's too small? It's a water turtle, they're happy in pots. Little Mao's mad scientist lair is COOL. 
Yep that room is cool - but the turtle needs more than a pot of water.
Deyou asks Mao how he got the turtle. Mao doesn't say. I bet he bought one and put a ribbon around it. Through Deyou, we see some of Mao's "toys": a human brain in a jar, urgh, slugs in a jar, urgh, and a heart with tubuculosis, urgh. Deyou is creeped out, and Mao says to man up since he brings up bodies from the river. Hmm, not quite, since Deyou isn't dissecting those bodies and storing the parts. (Sidebar: there's a skull on the shelf. Dunno why, but that stood out to me, more than the skeleton.) Then Mao shoves a pili nut in Deyou's mouth - rude - and Deyou spits it out in shock. He tells Mao to eat the food that was brought and storms out. Mao looks surprised.
Could have been an eyeball. 
Squishy like a grape!
And the next day, we see Mao carefully examining a footprint. He's got it marked off, he has a ruler, he has his newspaper boy cap on, and he looks super-cute when he sticks his pen cap in his mouth. Bunny Boy. And, good grief, those cute little shorts! I didn't expect to be baby-squeeing over an adult man this much, but whatevs. Deyou comes out and asks Mao what he is doing. Mao calmly says he is investigating missing persons in general, and that he checked with the hospital which had no record of any births. Deyou swishes his hair! Teehee.
"Adult man"... are we sure? He looks like a boy. 
Seriously. If it dresses like a kid and looks like a kid...I'm more about Gou Deyou, myself.
Mao continues that he is now looking for the baby thief. The footprint can tell him the height and weight of the ninja from the other night. Oh boy, he is remarkably simpleminded here. At that point, Ying runs in. The baby was from the Xue family. Their daughter killed herself two days ago by jumping in the river. Shaman Mama Gu even did a funeral in secret for them.
Ying doesn't like Mao at all. I find that funny. He hasn't done anything to offend her, has he? 
I think that she, too, is all about Gou Deyou, and Mao and Gou are still mostly adversarial. More importantly, Mao is a man of science and she is a shaman. It's not even like Gou Deyou, where observation and experience matter as much or more than any mystical tricks. I'd argue that she's equally skilled as Gou Deyou in the human side of things, but for the sake of the story I think it's simply Magic vs Science.
Deyou looks at Mao who is getting frustrated and says, let's investigate this Nansheng Xue family. When Mao wants to use his police ID, Deyou goes, nah, they won't let you in, pretend to be her friend who is there to offer condolences. Oh dear, Mao, you really aren't adding things up, are you? Secret funeral, remember? Which means no "friends" would know the guniang is dead. But Mao smiles his Wabbity smile and off he goes.
Okay now this is a cute face, right here. Give some credit!
Master Guo, though, tells Deyou that the trick he just played is too mean. Why? Because young ladies from conservative aristo families like the one who just died don't have male friends. The bereaved family is just going to think Mao was the father. As he says this, we see the same elderly man from earlier in the episode - we find out later his name is Gui - open the doors to the Xue mansion, and two thugs grab Mao to drag him in.
Since this is only episode 3, we know no real harm will come to Rabbit Boy. 
I'd like to know why MAO wouldn't know this, since he's from that same social class. Well, maybe a rung lower - but he'd still know this.
Inside, Mao is brought to an older man, Xue Qingyang, who is ominously playing with his tea cup lid (sidebar: this sounds weird, doesn't it? No, that tea cup business was very alarming) and says his name is Fu Mao because undercover, yo. The little older man servant that let Mao in is staring hard at him. Oh dear, this is exactly as Master Guo said. They think Mao must be the dead girl's lover. Mao's vague story of having run into Xue Yuan, the girl who died, at a memorial while sketching and one thing leading to another doesn't help this impression.
Damn, he was so obviously lying about everything, stammering his way through his answers! Should have prepped a bit better, Bunnyboy
Also, dumbass Bunny Boy, when a young girl is dead of suicide after having an illegitimate child, saying 'we met, and one thing led to another' sounds to a parent like 'yo, I totally banged your daughter every chance I got.'
Qingyang then asks Mao to fulfill his wish. That wish? Dress up in bridegroom clothes to pay respects to Yuan. Mao looks seriously pretty and cute in them. With elderly servant in tow, who is watching Mao very intently, Qingyang then asks Mao if he believes in taking responsibility? Yes, says Mao. Mao then asks why the clothes are so old-fashioned. Because they're actually a shroud, says Qingyang. Oups, they're burying him alive to keep the dead Yuan company.
Hahahaaaaaa, darling. That went really wrong.
Come on, Boy. EVERYONE knows what 'take responsibility' means in a drama!
Cut to Deyou and Ying knocking on the Xue Mansion doors to see Mao. They're told no one is home. Ying finally tells them she's the shaman's daughter there to check on an omen, and that gets them in.
I like how superstitious everybody is in this town! Even though I'd never believe Ying has any powers. She's clearly an airhead.
With one set of very particular skills that make her much smarter than she otherwise might be.

Cut to Mao being forced into the coffin with the corpse. Lucky for him corpses don't rot in Tienjin. Deyou and Ying hear him swearing and yelling, and run over as Qingyang is scolding him to die peacefully. Dude, suffocating alive in a box with a corpse for company is not dying peacefully.
Corpses don't rot and hence don't smell or he would have puked.
Well that would have been gross.
And Deyou doesn't help much by saying Ding Mao should've gone to a brothel instead of seducing this family's daughter, urgh. But he also name-drops the Canal Shipping Committee, which is enough to stop Mao from being killed. While Deyou is explaining who Mao is, Mao actually manages to throw a slipper at him, pffft. Anyway, Mao is released.
But...now this family really will think he was the father. They're going to clear that up, right?
Qingyang gives them all pieces of jade as an "I'm sorry, please don't press charges against me." Why should they? You only tried to bury someone alive! He persuades them to take the jade pieces but as Deyou and Ying start putting theirs away, Mao asks if Qingyang is trying to buy their silence, reminding the other two that they are there on an investigation. Grumbling, they put their pieces back on the table.
Recognize the room they're in, Saki? 
*waits expectantly for Saki to respond*
Yes, it was the room from Ba Ye's second home where Fo Ye and gang plotted counter attacks on slimy Lu.
Qingyang then launches into his sad story of how his daughter Yuan was his only family, and how he'd always kept her close at home, but one day she disappeared (sidebar: hormones). And then she came home pregnant but the fellow wouldn't marry her. Yuan wouldn't say who the father was, and when the baby was one month old, ran off to with baby to its father. Next time they saw Yuan, she was floating dead in the river, but the baby was missing. Aha. We need to find that daddy. There's also a missing son at the beginning of the episode...just throwing that out there..Ding Mao says the baby is dead too, and now this looks a double homicide. And he calls Deyou his mentor, surprising everyone, when saying Deyou found the baby. (Sidebar, nah, that was the other salvage diver.) Qingyang just says, fine, tomorrow (Ahjussi, why wait? Think of the smell!), Gui will get the body to be buried with the mother. (No, really, why wait? They are rotting!)
No, they're not
We've established via clothing and accessories that time is a bit wonky in Tientsin. It clearly affects corpses, as well.
Mao says, no, I want to do an autopsy. Someone get him that doctor game where you operate on a toy. Oh, that exists?! Yes, it's called Operation.  They still have it, I was surprised because it was around even when I was a kid. At this, Qingyang blasts the government as uncaring and says he just wants to bury the bodies and grieve and to get out! Deyou indicates they should go, and they do, though Ying tries to take the jade as well.
Can't blame a girl for trying.

Cut to a spooky full moon and Deyou looking a bit wolfish. He is wrapping up the infant's body when he hears something behind him. Nope, nothing there. Must be more ninjas! Except we see Mao's outline behind white curtains, and Mao rips them back, scaring Deyou. Mao actually doesn't mean any harm, he just wants to persuade Deyou that they should find out how the mum and infant died and how it relates to Ding Dad's death. Deyou scolds him for talking like that in front of the child. Deyou says he was paid to prepare the child for burial and to return it, and so Mao offers him 30 dollars to let him autopsy the baby. Then, Mao, looking extra cute, says, 50 dollars. And all we see is Deyou looking a bit flustered.
Awww, they're so cute. Both of them
They are. I could see multiple seasons of this.
The next day, old man Gui shows up with a coffin. Deyou says there are a few formalities, and chats to Master Gui as he gets the baby. In the course of the chat, Master Gui says he has been with the Xue family for almost 40 years and that Yuan was like a daughter to him. He tells Deyou that Yuan was a foolish girl, and trusted people too easily and thought well of others, so Qingyang tried to shelter her. So, Deyou asks, was she at peace with her decision to kill herself? He explains that a girl who always was sweet and kind would not easily kill herself. Master Gui says he can't do anything further, and Deyou says he can come to him any time if he's ready to talk because the murderer should not get away with it.
Another butler who is mighty suspicious. It might be a butler conspiracy. 
Funny, I'm focused on Pops. I think the butler is genuinely sad. Dad is sad, too, but has a reputation to uphold...anyway, if it's an inside job, it's Dad for me. I'm not convinced it's not the Baby Daddy though. Or some completely unforeseen third option, like she really did just fall into the river by accident.
Flashback to Qingyang searching for Yuan and the baby. He sent off Gui and the servants, but when they got back after searching everywhere, they found Qingyang with Yuan's body. He said he found her on the river. No baby with her. Aw, poor Master Gui is so sad.
Yup! All of you, go search over there while I search over here alllllll by myself.
Deyou clarifies that no one from the house saw Yuan's body taken from the river. Master Gui agrees, and Deyou says, that's strange because salvage divers usually see the bodies first. Then, he offers to carry the body because of "lots of customs" and the episode ends.
Hmmm, what? 
Clearly Gou Deyou ain't a fan of Dad.

Ying is dancing about like a weirdo. I like the orange of her dress. think it might be early morning, because Deyou comes out all annoyed!
Yes, bro, she annoys me too. 
She is pretty though, and frequently useful.


Didn't it occur to Mao that an aristo girl of that time probably kept semi-purdah? He should've known this much. Then again, his circle is probably more sophisticated than this old-fashioned scholarly family's.
I think he's an innocent. That's why he was so shocked to wake up at a brothel
Even more reason for him to be aware of what's socially proper.

And the attempt to bury him alive was rather creepy, though weirdly understandable from a grieving father who thinks his daughter should be "married" in death, even if she wasn't in life. Not saying that dad should've done this, but I can kind of see how he got there in his crazy head since even as recently as the Ming Dynasty, China practiced live burials, though as far as I know, of the emperor's consorts.
Sorry, that father is insane. He belongs behind bars. 
I've heard of 'ghost brides' living women married to men who are already dead (died very young) and live the rest of their lives as widows...this is just crazy though.