Now the three adult actors are playing the roles of Bong Sam, So Rye and So Gae. Color me surprised, but I liked So Gae this episode.
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 5 Recap
Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk) proudly proclaims he is Chun Bong Sam! He’s the child the traveling merchants, Jo Sung Joon and Song Man Chi, abandoned at the doctor’s house. Bong Sam further surprises the traveling merchants declaring they deal in illegal cow leather. Sung Joon admits that he traded cow leather illegally but this isn’t the place to discuss his wrongdoings. Bong Sam scoffs at separating his wrongs from theirs. Irritated Man Chi grabs Bong Sam and tells him they left 300 coins with the doctor for his care. Bong Sams asks how much they made from illegal trades. Man Chi grabs Bong Sam’s money pouch. The coins spill. Bong Sam gathers them in a frenzy. He declares this is the money he will use to free his sister from slavery. They pay him no heed and beat him. For a moment Bong Sam gets the upper hand and declares he will leave but he is subdued.
Now we met the adult So Rye (Park Eun Hye), Bong Sam’s sister. She honors her father’s death but states he would hate that she lives at his enemy’s house. That may answer the question if she knows Kim Hak Joon was mastermind behind her father’s downfall. She apologizes to her father that after 10 years she has not found Bong Sam.
Sung Joo berates Bong Sam for how dishonorable he is, why his father would be ashamed. Bong Sam he’s ashamed of his father who died for trafficking opium. Yep, Bong Sam believed his father’s lie (told to save So Gae). He tells the assembled that while his father was a respected merchant behind everyone’s back he trafficked opium. He accuses his father of framing So Gae’s father for his own sins. Anger burns in Bong Sam as he rails his father’s sins cost him his sister. Nice moment when Jang Hyuk literally swallows the fury to declare the penalty was his sister. Upset that Bong Sam has ignored his father’s positives for one negative moment, Sung Joo reveals that Bong Sam’s father rejected money to ignore his illegal cow leather trades. Sung Joo drives home the point that Bong Sam’s father was fair, honorable, and always thought about his children. Bong Sam asks the critical question, if his father didn’t traffic opium, who did? Sung Joo is disgusted that Bong Sam won’t believe in his own father’s ethics and leaves. Bong Sam calls after Sung Joo in vain. You can see he wonders if he’s been wrong these past 10 years.
So Rye remembers her father’s final words…make Chun Merchant Group rise again. Kim Hak Joon returns from a business trip and So Rye (who goes by So Hong) is deferential. When Hak Joon wants to see a sign he assumes has his name (but has her father’s), So Rye dry heaves to distract him. Hak Joon assumes she’s pregnant with his son. Egad, they have a physical relationship. The doctor tells Hak Joon that So Rye is not pregnant to his dismay. So Rye reminds him that if they had a child, the fact that she is a geisha would forever stain the child.
While Bong Sam remembers and misses his father, So Rye cries that she misses Bong Sam.
Bong Sam asks Sung Joo to let him be an apprentice. Sun Joo and Man Chi reject the request. Bong Sam follows them anyway. When they arrive at the stables, Bong Sam pledges to be serious and stop his silly ways.
So Rye advises Hak Joon that it is best to be humble when things are going well as everything cycles. Hak Joon asks about her father. So Rye lies that her father was a nobody that sold her to a geshia house. She tells Hak Joon the time has come for him to topple the head merchant and take his place.
As Hak Joon prepares to board a ship, he says to his right hand man that he is suspicious that So Rye has no past that he can verify. He also doesn’t understand how she brought a bodyguard, Deuk Gae, with her. Hak Joon tells his right hand man to investigate So Ry and finally find her past. So Rye plans to use the 15 day separation from Hak Joon to find Bong Sam.
Now we meet the adult So Gae (Yu Oh Seong) who is thrilled when the Head Merchant, Shin Suk Joo, invites him to travel with him. Suk Joo introduces So Gae as the man with endurance to survive 600 other workers that left during the last 10 years. Suk Joo’s assistant is NOT excited that So Gae warrants introduction after 10 years of service. He’s been with the Head Merchant for 27 years and does not want the young upstart, So Gae, so creep closer to the Head Merchant. Hak Joon observes this.
Hak Joon believes he will finally get revenge on his brother who sold Chun Merchant Group to the Head Merchant without his consent. He tells the police his brother’s 10 years of embezzlement is documented in a ledger. The police officer is thrilled to be able to make a high profile arrest. At the same time the Head Merchant is pushing Hak Joon’s brother from his current position to another using the embezzlement ledger to force him to comply. Now the Head Merchant and Hak Joon’s brother are trapped as the police enter the room. Thinking quickly So Gae enters the room with food and burns the embezzlement ledger the Head Merchant kicked under the table. So Gae and the Head Merchant give each other “that was close” looks. Hak Joon is not happy with the results. So Gae gets praise from the Head Merchant. The Head Merchant gently taunts Hak Joon telling him the only way he’ll ever beat him is to outlive him. Hak Joon’s brother takes a more direct approach. He pushes Hak Joon completely prone and says to live in subjection to him.
So Gae doesn’t get the reward he would expect once they return home. The Head Merchant’s assistant finds ledgers that So Gae took to study how the Head Merchant makes money. The assistant tells him he crossed the line, the line he was told not to cross. His punishment? Water shoved down his throat. This doesn’t look like fun…
The fifth episode gave us the adult actors for Bong Sam, So Gae, and So Rye. Of the three of them you have to rank So Gae has having the most purpose and progress in achieving the goal of becoming a powerful merchant. Bong Sam and So Rye have a long way to go.
* Bong Sam’s negative opinion of his father surprised me. Yes, he saw his father admit to the opium trafficking before he died. Yes, his father did not recant even though Bong Sam begged him to. But here’s the deal, I find it hard to believe that no one from the merchants entering the border didn’t see that it was So Gae’s bag. That has bugged me for several episodes. Ok, assume no one saw that it was So Gae’s bag. I still find it hard to accept that Bong Sam’s entire belief in his father imploded with the single moment of opium trafficking. Bong Sam lived with and was well loved by his father for years, and one mistake made him completely distrust his father? If so, Bong Sam is not the brightest bulb of the bunch. Do I like Bong Sam right now? He’s ok. He’s got growing and maturing to do. I’m looking forward to that. How about Jang Hyuk? The standout scene for me was when he swallowed his rage over his father to compose his thoughts to the merchants. The physical act of swallowing correlated to his gain over his emotions. Nicely done!
* So Rye has spent 10 years being with Hak Joon? Ick! She has the faithful Deuk Gae by her side, so she’s not alone, but she it appears she has not made much progress to reestablish Chun Merchant Group. I was relieved she was not pregnant with Hak Joon’s son.
* So Gae has spent his 10 years becoming more important to the Head Merchant much to the displeasure of the Head Merchant’s Assistant. Adult So Gae, in this episode, seemed more subtle and likable. He is working hard to fulfill his father’s dying wish that he become the most powerful merchant in the land.
Hak Joon surprised me. I felt sorry for this character. Yes, I’ll repeat that, I felt sorry for this character. I know this is the man that blackmailed and cornered So Gae’s father and Bong Sam’s father to their deaths. But watching him be disappointed that So Rye wasn’t pregnant (I was happy about that), watching his short lived glee that his embezzling brother would finally pay turn to disappointment, watching his brother’s cruel humiliation of Hak Joon pushing him hard to ground and telling him that on his belly was his lot in life…made me feel sorry for him. I don’t imagine this will continue for long but it happened this episode. Surprising, because I despised this character in episodes 1-4.