In the Eye of the Beholder


Reviewed by: sukting

November 13, 2012

Rating: three

Foreword
To look for the last woman for his painting “Nine Pretty Women”, famous scholar Bak Fu goes on a trip to Hangzhou with his disciple, Gei. He meets a pretty young maid from Wah’s Residence, Chau Heung at a lantern festival. Fu is mesmerized by her beauty and martial agility. He falls in love with her at first sight. Will he be able to win her heart?

Story/Introduction on characters
1. Tong Bak Hu – Chan Hou
Fu is a top scholar. In order to approach Chau Heung, he disguises as a servant and assumes the identity of Wah On, seeking to win her affections with his talent and ingenuity. But contrary to his wishes, Chau Heung is unmoved and avoids him after he kisses her. He later rises to become Wah Man and Wah Mou's teacher.

Although he later wins her heart, their views differ as she wants him to do something for the country but he prefers a simple life. He only risks his life to stay with Ning Wong as she wants to expose his rebellion plan. He later goes to live in Siam with Chau Heung.

Hou comes as a big surprise as Bak Hu. I have seen him as comical roles before but to be serious at the same time is also a challenge. I have thought of him to be very modern but he changes my impression. Still, I find him too muscular as the servant and not lustful enough as the womanizer. Some also complain that he isn’t handsome enough. He is suitable as the carefree, wise and knowledgeable Bak Hu who helps others to tide over many crisis.

2. Chau Heung/ Ho Kok Yin – Wu Hang Yee
She is a maid to Yan Sau Wai out of gratitude as Hung San saves her and her father when both suffer from the famine. She is skilled in martial arts and protects the whole family. She later follows Bak Hu to protect him from harm. She is later married to Bak Fu and has a son. Hang Yee doesn’t need to do much in here except to show off Chau Heung’s martial arts skills or to smile. Her role has very little development here – not as successful as Wing Ho’s version.

3. Wat Gei – Lee See Git
He is Tong Bak Fu's disciple and is an ex-constable. He can never live like a monk as he loves women. He isn’t as smart as Bak Hu but he is also quick-minded. It seems like he likes to fight more than he studies but is proud to be Qu Yuan’s descendant so he gives up his constable job to learn the arts.
However, he has strong brotherhood with Bak Fu and becomes a steward in Wah and also Ning Wong residence to be with him. Being a loyal friend, he doesn’t leave Bak Hu even though he is in danger. He later becomes Sek Lau's lover and later works for the court. He is later framed to work as a transvestite in Siam. See Git is also competent in his role, providing plenty of comic relief.

4. Emperor Cheng Tak – Lai Lok Yi
He is Chau Heung's admirer. He wants the best for his people. He is a benevolent emperor who forgives Bak Fu for his lies. He listens to his advice and gives him a fan as remembrance. He is wary of Ning Wong and has hoped that Bak Hu will assist him. Bak Fu has to trade it with Ting Yuk as she threatens to chop off a scholar’s hand for complaining about her attitude to the magistrate. But when he needs to save his own skin, he will not hesitate to sacrifice others.

5. Prince Ning/Chu Chan Hou – Tsang Wai Kuen
Prince Ning is attempting to rebel against Emperor Cheng Tak. He manages to involve Bak Fu in his conspiracy by framing the Hua brothers of writing poems on Wai emperor. In the end, Bak Fu has to help him to edit Cheng Ho’s travel log. Ning Wong wants to get hold of the whereabouts of Wai Emperor’s descendants to call for a rebellion so that he can be the emperor. Bak Hu saves his life and gets Cheng Tak to forgive him.

6. Chu Ting Yuk – Chen Fa La
She is Prince Ning's spoilt only daughter. She slaps men when she is in a foul mood. She is actually pitiful as Prince Ning wrongs her mother to be involved with a tutor. Prince Ning kills the tutor and still doubts her. In the end, her mother is drowned in the well when Prince Ning pushes her into it in anger. She destroys Bak Hu’s nine beauty painting and that offends him.

Since then, he doesn’t care about her education and gives in to her all the time. He also doesn’t mind her being illiterate. Bak Fu gets to teach her and she falls for him, changing all her wilful ways. She even restores his painting for him. Desperate to save her dream man, she forces Prince Ning to release Bak Fu by threatening to kill herself. Her affections for Bak Fu cause unease in Chau Heung. Both compete with each other but Bak Hu chooses Chau Heung.

She later becomes a famous artist and gives up her princess title, roaming the wilds. Fa La is fine in her role as the unreasonable shrew. She also looks pretty and natural in ancient costume while the make-up for Hang Yee is a bit too thick.

7. Hao Lin – Lam Suk Mun
She is Ting Yuk's maid. Although Ting Yuk is harsh to servants, she treats Hao Lin well and listens to her. Whenever Yong ill-treats her, she runs to her rescue. She is beside her at all times.

8. Wah Hung San – Ha Yu
He is a wealthy and kind to make donations but is a timid merchant who doesn’t want to brag about it. He doesn’t want his two sons to be heroic and forbids them to read heroic stories. He is forced to be the fourth in charge of the Heaven and Earth Union when Sai Kit imprints his finger on a deed by providing him money to make a comeback from his losses.
He knows from the very beginning that Bak Fu is not a common man. By the time his true identity is revealed, Bak Fu has been his close friend. He wants to repay his kindness for saving his family several times and tries very hard to prevent Bak Hu from being killed by Sai Kit. He is very troubled to be under his control.

9. Yan Sau Wai – Hon Ma Lei
She is the first wife who treats Chau Heung like her daughter. She is a kind person and has two sons. She pampers her sons rotten.

10. Lei Yuk Kiu – Yiu Ying Ying
She is the second wife who likes to show off her wealth and compete with others. She doesn’t like Hung San to be so timid as she wants to be known. Unlike Sau Wai who is very cultured, she is crude as she is an ex-vegetable seller.

11. Lei Jan Hing – Chan San Chung
He is Yuk Kiu’s younger brother as the chief steward. Like his sister, he likes to throw his weight around but will be the first to flee when there is trouble. He initially bribes Gei to stalk Bak Hu as he dislikes him but never expects the two to be friends.

12. Wah Mun – Lee Ho
He is silly and easily manipulated by others. He inherits Hung San’s business later with Mou.

13. Wah Mou – Cheng Kar Chun
Like his brother, he is also easily to make used of. But both are close to Chau Heung to treat her like their elder sister.

14. Sek Lau – Yiu Chi Ling
She is Chau Heung’s close friend. She is a great cook and thinks that Bak Hu is interested in her. She comes with Chau Heung to cook for Bak Hu and Gei in Ning residence to lift their low spirits. Chau Heung learns cooking from her in order to please Bak Hu. She later stays in the capital with Gei. It is strange that Tong family later visits Sek Lau Kitchen in Siam – opened by her. Chi Ling looks silly at most times and is definitely not as funny as Yuen King Dan’s version.

15. Bao Sai Kit – Mak Cheung Ching
He is the Chief of Heaven and Earth Union. Prince Ning manages to seek him out for help. He kills corrupted officials when gives Hung San money when he lacks it. Now, he comes to stay with him, pretending to be an opera troupe owner. He attempts to assassinate Cheng Tuck. He bears a grudge against Bak Hu when he foils his attempt and he is forced to kill his men. Bak Fu finds him a good negotiator as all are easily influenced by his speech.
When all his moles in Ning residence and Wah family are tortured or killed by the court, he works with Prince Ning later, wanting to achieve his dream. To manipulate Bak Fu, he ropes Ying Hung and Hung Shan into his Union. He only agrees to expel them after Bak Fu helps him in finding the descendants.
He is peeved when his followers decide to work for the court to seek a stable life to leave him. He becomes mentally unstable when Wai’s descendants prefer a quiet life in Siam, even changing their surnames.

16. Gam Yat Dim – Lee Kwok Lun
He always likes to pit his wealth against Hung San in donations. Like Hung San, he also has two sons who are a bit stupid but not to their standard as they can still recite normal poetry without assistance.
He is quite dishonest in using low quality wood in building the ancestor hall. When it collapses as Chau Heung chases after the rapist, he frames Chau Heung. Bak Fu has to save her. Bak Fu even manages to chase him out of the town when he tries to harm Hung San again. He tricks Cheng Tak into drawing a lion to offend Cheng Tak.

17. Lo Cheung Hung – Lee Sing Cheung
He is Cheng Tuck’s official who tries to be his favourite. All merchants run to bribe him with riches except Hung San. To Hung San’s dismay, Cheung Hung still selects Hung San’s home for Cheng Tuck to stay during his trip. He will paint a false picture before Cheng Tuck comes. Chau Heung has to tell Cheng Tuck the truth of the commoners’ suffering.

18. Wan Chin Pang – Lo Ho Koi
He helps Prince Ning in reediting the log. He tries to make life difficult for Bak Fu, thinking that he is stealing glory from him. He makes sure that the wind blows the papers all over the place but the alert Bak Fu has marked the pages to arrange them in order quickly.

19. Ho Ying Hung – Ou Sui Wai
He is Chau Heung’s father who believes that men should strike out on his own to do something big. As Hung San rescues him and Chau Heung when they are able to die from hunger, he makes Chau Heung work for him to repay his kindness. In the meantime, he travels around to help others.
He totally influences Chau Heung to think like him. That is why he isn’t so happy with Bak Hu’s attitude and tries to change him. He becomes good friends with Sai Kit, not knowing that he often makes use of him. Hung San has actually wishes him to teach his sons martial arts in a distant town but Sai Kit discovers his plan so he has to abort it.
Ying Hung is totally brainwashed by Sai Kit to join the union after seeing widows and orphans suffer as honest officials are executed by the court. Luckily, he realises his mistake and is reconciled with the rest.

20. Ma Ko – Yu Chun Shun
He is also Prince Ning’s experienced advisor. He looks through Bak Hu’s editions of the travel log and alerts Prince Ning that Bak Hu has tricked him. He reads through every chapter and line to make sure that there is no loophole. Bak Hu finds it hard to hide the truth from him.

21. Ho Chung – Wong Wai Tuck
He is Chin Pang’s assistant for the log. He often wants to get Bak Fu into trouble too.

22. Tsui Man Shau – Yeung Ying Wai
He is a timid magistrate who gives in to authority as he doesn’t want to offend others. He will normally excuse himself from receiving guests or will ask others to give in to higher authority. Bak Fu has to find evidence to rescue others himself.

23. Ha Hou Yong – Yeung Ming
He is a boorish general who is interested in Ting Yu for a long time. Prince Ning is keen to marry off Ting Yu to him although he also doesn’t mind Bak Fu to be his future son-in-law. He beats Bak Fu up upon knowing that Ting Yu likes him. Knowing that he isn’t as muscular looking as he should be, he adds a mustache, but sad to say, this doesn’t help him much in the role.

24. Ha Hou Chun – Lo Lok Lam
He is the big general and is Yong’s father. He is in cahoots with Prince Ning over the rebellion.

25. Mang Choi Kit – Hui Bik Gik
She is Hung San’s aunt. All think that she is the empress dowager but she is Ting Yu’s grandaunt too. She is close to both families.

Interesting facts
Many called Hou as foreigner no. 1 while Fa La was foreigner no. 2. They were named“双陈老外”as they grew up overseas.They were tense as they knew others could be demanding on them so whenever they had time, they read the script. They were relieved when it had an average of 31 points when the drama was shown in Hong Kong.
Hang Yee was pressurized as this was her first periodic role. Chau Heung was a martial arts expert and also her first time working with Hou. He was a comedian and sounded like a European reciting poems to make others laugh. All tried very hard not to get N.G. when with him. Ha Yu helped her in intonation to make her natural in her role.

Interesting scenes
Wong Tai Bak (Lai Yiu Cheung) is indignant that he is defeated by Gei during a poetry session so he seeks revenge. Luckily an official, Ho Hoi Ching (Cheung Chi Kong) rescues them and tries to persuade Bak Fu to work for the court but he refuses as he sees that honest officials have no good endings. True enough, this official is sent for execution within a month.

Fu is indignant that a scholar, Piew (Choi Chi Kin) assumes his identity to cheat money, lying that he is getting funds to save his hometown from famine. Yet, he is quite impressed when he copies his drawings well. There is a famous drawing that he actually gets it burned when he is in a brothel by mistake and Piew lies that it is burned in a fire when he is with monks.

Bak Fu tricks him into adding a poem to his burnt drawing – that indicates that Yat Dim has no successors. The truth is brought to light. This is a must-watch first episode to see how Heung beats him up – telling him off for not impersonating others but her idol.

Bak Hu thinks that being a servant is simple but never knows that he has to try so hard. He keeps breaking things one after another to finally learn the ropes after engaging a teacher. Thus, he passes the test but Jan Hing wants to kick him out. Bak Hu has to use his wisdom to get the job.

Ou Yeung Hak (Cheung Chung Chi) is engaged as Hung San’s sons’ tutor. All find it odd that he knows martial arts and often sneaks out at night. There is a rapist on the run and they have thought of him to be responsible as they find many lingerie in his room. However, it comes to light when they find out that the culprit is someone else. Hak is only out at night to visit brothels.

Hung San’s 1000 year ginseng is missing. Bak Fu investigates and finds the truth – the Lei siblings are behind it.

Wai Hung (Lee Hung Kit) and Wai Jing (Chan Wing Chun) are competing to be the next abbot. Wai Hung is ambitious and votes for himself secretly. He never expects all to vote for him and is proud. However, he is dismayed when Bak Hu announces that he is the loser. The rule is he must not vote for himself and he is dishonest. Bak Fu has conspires with the rest to vote for Wai Jing. Wai Jing becomes the winner instead.

How Pak Hu tries to woo Heung. His plan often backfires. You will be very amused to see how she thinks lowly of him when he brings the young masters to the brothel to learn how to recite poems. He has discovered that they don’t remember words well and needs concrete examples.

Pak Hu is told to find out who is the real Chau Heung among the ‘brides’. He puts them through tests correctly – the last one is pretending to knock himself against the brick and two last people hold him. He can tell that the left person is Chau Heung as she uses the same grip on him earlier. Later, she is put through a test to find out who is the real Chau Heung among the ‘bridegrooms’.

The emperor has intended to make Chau Heung his concubine. Bak Fu tells her to present a ‘mou’ item. All think that it is a dance but it is actually a martial arts stunt. She scares him off when she cracks walnuts in front of him.

Bak Hu’s description of the travel log on the different types of food (especially fruits) and races can make you laugh. But you will admire his ability in deciphering information from it to really discover the descendants’ whereabouts and understand how Cheng Ho has gone through after he is being forced to look for Wai emperor.

Favourite character
Bak Hu, he is intelligent and also cares for others.

Most hated character
Sai Kit, he will do anything to achieve his aim.

Song
It is the same title by Jin Au-Yeung and Wong Cho Lam. It is like a rap – very funny and witty.

Conclusion
Unlike other nonsensical dramas, this drama actually uses lots of verses and poetry to get younger viewers to know about the ancient culture. The producer is successful in a way although some parts are half-baked. The actors take great pains to imitate gestures of people from the past. They must have done a lot of homework. It is interesting to see how they go from place to place to search for the truth or evidence.

It also shows the battle of wits and power struggles. Bak Fu’s poems have always depicted himself to be loyal to the country to want to do something for it but he is not ambitious at all. He wants a quiet life and hasn’t been truthful to his ‘fans’. That is why Chau Heung gets so disillusioned after knowing the real him. Dream and reality is totally different indeed. Luckily, he has preserved his kind nature to win her over in the end.

There is very little chemistry between Hang Yee and Hou. I am quite disappointed as I have high hopes for this drama. Hou ends up having the most chemistry with See Jit. Both are wacky in their lines and how they trick others. That is the highlight that most should not miss. So you may still watch it when you have the time.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

On song : *** (Scale of 5)


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