Someone pays the ultimate price…who is it?
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 18 Recap
To save Bong Sam, So Rye (Park Eun Hye) meets with So Gae (Yu Oh Seong). She hugs him. She stabs him with her her hair pin. So Gae pulls away furious. So Rye says she’ll trade him for Bong Sam. So Gae runs away. Sung Joo and his men take after him but to no avail.
Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk) is thrown at So Gae’s feet. He tells Bong Sam that she wanted to save him. So Gae urges him to confess. Bong Sam refuses to make a false confession. So Gae urges the judge to make a decision without Bong Sam’s confession.
Sung Joo and So Rye hear the judge will make a decision soon. Sun Dol rides his horse to deliver news. What is it?
The judge declares Bong Sam et all stole grain. He sentences them to beheading. Sun Dol arrives with Bo Hyun’s letter. The judge stares at the letter confused. So Gae announces to Bong Sam et al in the morning they will be released. Battered, bruised, but not beaten the men celebrate. Sun Dol reminds Bong Sam he still must handle the Head Merchant. Tomorrow, tomorrow, Bong Sam declares.
So Gae reads Bo Hyun’s letter to set Bong Sam free. In heat sensitive secret ink, Bo Hyun directs So Gae to kill So Rye who knows his secrets and kill Bong Sam if he wishes.
Bong Sam et al leave the prison. So Rye is stunned to see his condition. He laughs. The men bow. She can only smile.
So Rye helps him through the woods. So Rye declares they will stay stuck together forever.
So Gae and his minions wait for Bong Sam and So Rye to come into shot range. So Gae tells his men not to miss. So Rye sees the men and throws her body in front of Bong Sam using herself as a human shield. She must have taken 6 bullets, I can’t imagine she could survive. In Bong Sam’s arms he begs her to live. How can he go on without her? Sorry, this time there is no miracle. She tells him she’ll come back again (reverting to their childhood parting when she left him in the shrine). They are crying. I am crying. Bong Sam promises to wait for her. So Rye praises him. She dies. So cruel to have her taken from him 3 times in a lifetime. Bong Sam weeps the pain of loss. I’m feeling this death folks.
So Gae that scumbag. He is a slave to money and power. He still isn’t loathsome. He doesn’t spew evil words or enjoy hurting puppies, but maybe that’s worse. He is self-serving, self-absorbed, and it doesn’t even register that killing childhood friends is a horrible thing. It is merely what must be done to advance his own agenda.
Bong Sam gets drunk by the grave. So Gae finds him. I am gobsmacked that So Gae has the gall to visit So Rye when he’s the one that killed her! Unbelievable! Bong Sam punches him. So Gae claims it is Bo Hyun’s fault. He pushes Bong Sam to the ground. Lies! So Gae says So Rye knew Bo Hyun’s secrets and her death saved him. Bong Sam declares he killed his sister twice. Dude, do not believe that twisted logic. Open your eyes. Every time So Rye died, So Gae was there, leading, instigating, caring out a plan to make it happen.
So Sa’s maid, Wol, tells her the grain ship is arriving. So Sa knows that means Bong Sam will return if he’s alive.
The Head Merchant meets So Gae and compliments him for returning safely. So Gae tells him everything he learned was from him. The Head Merchant asks about Bong Sam and learns he is still alive.
Gol Dae and Sun Dol rouse Bong Sam from his drunken stupor. They understand his pain. Bong Sam says his sister died because of him.
Bong Sam literally falls down drunk in front of the Head Merchant. The Head Merchant asks if he kept his promise. Lose 1 grain of rice and he loses his head. Bong Sam declares he lost 2000 bags of rice. The Head Merchant orders the rice unloaded. He’ll deal with Bong Sam later.
Bo Hyun rewards So Gae with a house. Mae Wol (aka Gae Dong (Kim Min Jung)) enters the house first. So Gae bows. Bo Hyun declares the So Gae, the hawk, caught the snake, the Head Merchant. Mae Wol comments that the Head Merchant is an old crafty snake. Mae Wol recommends that Bo Hyun make So Gae the new Head Merchant. Mae Wol urges So Gae to determine a way that the Head Merchant will accept him.
Not as dumb as he looks, Bo Hyun realizes that So Gae and Mae Wol are frenemies and not to be trusted completely.
So Gae drinks heavily. Mae Wol asks what is bothering him. Is it lost of parent, child, or woman? She realizes So Rye is involved. So Gae admits that it is because of him So Rye died. Mae Wol cuts him off. So Rye’s fate was to die. So Gae declares only Mae Wol understands him. That a dubious honor in my opinion.
Bo Hyun lies to the Head Merchant with the loss of the rice, he was concerned for him. His plan, which was approved by the Government, provides a new assistant, So Gae. Head Merchant declares he does not need an assistant and certainly does not want So Gae. Bo Hyun is blunt. Either accept So Gae or lose his position as Head Merchant. He is cornered!
Head Merchant tells his man in front of So Sa (Han Chae Ah) that Bong Sam will be punished for losing the rice. Bong Sam is playing games drunk while Sun Dol and Gol Dae watch. The Head Merchant’s men arrive to take Bong Sam. Sun Dol and Gol Dae are shoved aside and Bong Sam is taken to the Head Merchant’s home.
So Sa watches upset. Wol advises So Sa not to anger the Head Merchant. So Sa must do something. She finds the Head Merchant. She drops to her knees and begs for Bong Sam’s life. Head Merchant says a deal is a deal. So Sa boldly declares Bong Sam is father of her baby. She declares she should be killed instead. The Head Merchant walks away as she cries for mercy for Bong Sam.
Bong Sam is drunk as a skunk when the Head Merchant accuses him of owing him major money for losing the rice. His life is now in jeopardy. Bong Sam declares he is ok with dying. The Head Merchant declares he will kill him here and now. Bong Sam tells him to kill him. So Sa watches tears in her eyes. Both men see her. Bong Sam urges the Head Merchant to kill him. She entreats her husband to save Bong Sam. He in turns declares himself a loser. The Head Merchant says he is so pathetic he doesn’t deserve to die. The Head Merchant declares he was the fool to hire Bong Sam. The Head Merchant orders him thrown out. Bong Sam yells kill me but he is tossed out. Sun Dol and Gol Dae prop him up. So Sa watches tears in her eyes. Bong Sam sees her crying. He walks away.
The Head Merchant can’t believe his situation. He stares at the painting of So Sa the lured him to this fate. He wishes he’d never seen it or decided to marry So Sa.
Bong Sam drinks ashamed of So Sa saving him and declaring himself a bug not worthy of being saved. He looks to the heavens.
So Gae visits the former Head Merchant’s assistant who is not happy to see him. So Gae asks for his decision. So Gae understands working for him would chafe his pride but the alternative is to be captive forever. He agrees. So Gae smiles.
So Gae, the former assistant arrives yelling for the Head Merchant. He’s shocked to see the former assistant. So Gae informs the Head Merchant he is his assistant. So Gae has him bow which he does. So Gae taps him with his foot to rise. Please tell me the former assistant will extract revenge against So Gae one day. He’s slippery snake that eludes justice. So Gae says they need someone to take over the stables.
Sung Joo visits the perpetually drunk Bong Sam at the stables. Sung Joo orders him to get up and force ably pulls him up and out of the hut. Sung Joo shows him his father’s merchant sign that So Rye kept all these years. Bong Sam is surprised to see it. Sung Joo says So Rye left if for him. So Rye never forgot that the goal was to reestablish Chun Merchant Group. Sung Joo tells Bong Sam to snap out his pathetic state. Make his sister proud. Buck up. Bong Sam looks to heavens and smiles. He touches the sign and bows. He raises his head and promises to try and move on, to become the elder merchant, to not embarrass his father. Sung Joo nods approvingly. Bong Sam hovers over the sign.
Man Chi beats his head assistant. Why didn’t he kill Bong Sam as Man Chi ordered? He chops his finger off as penance. Man Chi isn’t impressed. He walks away to join Bong Sam. Recall Bong Sam promised the Stable Gang he’d help them become merchants after the voyage. This infuriates Man Chi.
Bong Sam runs his hands over his father’s sign. He remembers his father’s words that money can hurt and help people. He asks the heavens what he should do now.
Bong Sam meets with So Gae per his request. Bong Sam refuses So Gae’s hospitality saying their relationship no longer includes drinking and smiling together. So Gae says they are both merchants. Bong Sam says no alcohol until he is put in charge of the stables. So Gae tells him in 10 days he better be gone from the stables. Bong Sam asks for 1 year. He tells So Gae he owes him. The debt can be paid by giving Bong Sam 1 year to run the stables. So Gae agrees he owes Bong Sam. So Gae asks if Bong Sam is willing to risk his merchant ID as part of this deal. If the money isn’t repaid in 1 year, then Bong Sam must give up his merchant ID and leave forever. Bong Sam agrees. So Gae’s smiles. He believes Bong Sam will never be able to raise 300,000. Hmm, he jacked the price.
Bong Sam intercepts the Head Merchant. He kneels in front of the Head Merchant. Bong Sam ask how he can raise big money. The Head Merchant stares in disbelief. So Sa stares in disbelief. Bong Sam faces says “believe it…I’m serious”.
So Gae and Bong Sam are now at odds. Bong Sam sees So Gae clearer than he ever has. Does he really understand the extent of So Gae’s tactic to use anyone and everyone to further his agenda? Probably not, but he has the gist of it. So Gae for his part, was more than willing to kill Bong Sam but was thwarted. Now he’s got a new plan to eradicate Bong Sam and stop him from being a threat to So Gae.
* Bong Sam thrice separated from his sister now has an eternal separation. How bittersweet that Bong Sam had such a small window of time and minimum scenes with So Rye before So Gae and his minions killed her. I hated seeing Bong Sam self-flagellate blaming himself for So Rye’s 2 deaths (over the cliff and by gunfire). Self loathing was the order of the day for Bong Sam. Anger is a phase of grief so it all makes sense.
* So Gae is a user and able to justify any action if it furthers his agenda. So Gae has crossed the line many times in this series. I got mad this episode when he had the gall to visit So Rye’s grave and tell Bong Sam that the blame lies squarely with Bo Hyun. What a lie! Bo Hyun said kill So Rye and Bong Sam’s life was So Gae’s decision. But the key is that So Gae’s actions directly lead to So Rye’s death. Under orders doesn’t cut it. So Gae did the deed. He brought the minions to Bong Sam and So Rye in the woods. He told them not to miss. He told them to reload to kill Bong Sam but was thwarted when others arrived on the scene.
* So Sa pleaded for Bong Sam’s life. The Head Merchant want to live in fantasy land and have everyone pretend the baby is his. So Sa would have not of that under the circumstances. She openly declared Bong Sam was the baby’s father. Her pain over seeing Bong Sam suffer was tangible.
* Gae Dong / Mae Wol promoted So Gae. She supported So Gae as the next Head Merchant. Bo Hyun realized both Mael Wol and So Gae are using him, but he is using them too.
* So Rye died…for real. So Rye, So Rye, what can I say? For many years you plotted but got no where to revive your father’s business. Now Bong Sam will take the flag and run with it. So Rye, your death scene was moving. You weren’t the greatest sister or brightest merchant, but you had heart and you never wavered in your desire to find your brother and revive your father’s business. Your execution of your wishes was subpar but your heart was in the right place.
Shout out to Prettysup who informs us that the series may be extended 4 episodes from 36 to 40 (link to article). This surprises me. I did not think the rating were considered good for this series. Looking at the AGB ratings posted at Asianwiki (link to ratings at bottom of page), they have risen from 8% to 12%.