So Gae executes a plan to stop Bong Sam and his merchant friends’ ability to trade. Will it work?
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 21 Recap
Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk) is livid to learn the Head Merchant played dirty by paying bandits to block ground transportation. Bong Sam doesn’t care about the Head Merchant’s power. He is going to confront him. Sun Dol goes with Bong Sam. Gol Dae heads to the port where the paper is. Like a man possessed, Bong Sam rides to confront the Head Merchant.
Bong Sam flings the letter which confirms the Head Merchant colluded with the bandits in front of him. Bong Sam demands to know why the Head Merchant did this. The Head Merchant pushes back – I have to do this to maintain my power base, to protect my territory, and make money for the King. Cutting to the chase, the Head Merchant asks what Bong Sam wants for the ground transportation route. Does he want the stables? Bong Sam is disgusted at the attempted bribe. He can’t believe that the Head Merchant and the Government work together. Bong Sam knows he cannot report the Head Merchant because the Government would turn a blind eye. He warns the Head Merchant not to block another ground transportation route. If he does he’ll bring the Head Merchant to the Merchant’s court of justice. Livid, the Head Merchant tells him they must come to an understanding. Bong Sam will let it slide…once…because the Head Merchant saved his life. But if the Head Merchant does it again, he’ll pay. The Head Merchant sputters in anger as Bong Sam strides away. The Head Merchant clutches his head in pain and staggers backward.
Gol Dae isn’t doing a great job selling the paper. So Gae approaches and says he’ll purchase the paper. Ok, I’m nervous if Gol Dae is the brains behind the paper sales. So Gae manipulates Gol Dae to admit that selling to locals should trump selling to foreigners. It’s like taking candy from a baby.
So Sa (Han Chae Ah) is worried about the Head Merchant and tries to press tea on him. He tells her that his medical issue cannot be cured with tea. Worried, So Sa declares she must visit the shaman Mae Wol.
Mae Wol is thrilled that Bong Sam has visited and brought high quality paper for her to use. Mae Wol writes a poem and moves herself to tears. Bong Sam makes to leave. Mae Wol asks why he is leaving. Bong Sam is clear – get a grip on your feelings for me or I will not visit you again. Mae Wol back hugs him and asks him why So Sa but not her. She confesses he’s the man for her. So Sa is married, pregnant and not available. Bong Sam pats her hand. He was kind to her in that moment, not gruff, I like that. So Sa happens to walk in at that moment. She misinterprets the moment and runs. Bong Sam runs after So Sa. Mae Wol watches with tears down her face.
Bong Sam tells So Sa she’s misinterpreting the moment. So Sa counters that she has no right to judge anything he does.
Mae Wol asks why So Sa came to see her. So Sa says she needs a favor. She’s concerned about the Head Merchant. Bong Sam is hurt. Mae Wol tells Bong Sam and So Sa to have a private moment. She leaves them alone but eavesdrops on their conversation.
So Sa asks Bong Sam not to upset the Head Merchant. Bong Sam is adamant that the Head Merchant’s tactics are not acceptable. So Sa doesn’t understand the business aspect and only knows Head Merchant saved their lives. She’ll plead for the Head Merchant to Bong Sam just like she’ll plead for Bong Sam to the Head Merchant. She struggles to stand and Bong Sam notices she’s pregnant. He just noticed? His powers of observation need to ramp up. So Sa lies that she’s pregnant with the Head Merchant’s baby. Bong Sam asks if she’s speaking the truth. So Sa declares she’s the Head Merchant’s wife, so the baby is the Head Merchant’s. She again asks Bong Sam to cut the Head Merchant some slack. She leaves. Bong Sam stares. He must be wondering “what’s with the women in my life today?”
Mae Wol compliments So Sa on her performance in front of Bong Sam.
Bong Sam wonders if So Sa was honest.
So Sa cries alone in her room. Lying to the man she loves, the father of her child, sucks.
Sun Dol finds Bong Sam pondering So Sa’s pregnancy and request. He tells him the Head Merchant is at the stables.
Bong Sam meets the Head Merchant who offers his hand. Bong Sam asks if he’ll become crooked like the Head Merchant if he takes his hand. The Head Merchant dangles the big price in front of Bong Sam. He’ll give him the Chun Merchant Group and allow them to trade in seafood. Flashback of So Gae’s father begging the Head Merchant to be allowed to trade in seafood. Bong Sam can’t believe So Gae’s father did that. The Head Merchant is offering him a new world if only he’ll relinquish the ground transportation route. He urges Bong Sam to think about what is best for him and his merchant family. The money he’d make would make his life good. He urges Bong Sam to take the deal. He tells Bong Sam he’ll wait for his response.
Bong Sam ponders – ethics or easy money?
Man Chi yells & tells Bong Sam that he’ll never make enough money to buy back the stable but doing ordinary business. He urges him to accept the Head Merchant’s deal. Bong Sam tells him it isn’t a simple choice. Man Chi tells him to take the deal. Bong Sam promises to consider it seriously.
Bong Sam goes to the government official with a letter describing the Head Merchants activities. The Government asks if he’s sure. Sun Dol asks Bong Sam to consider the consequences of his actions. The letter is dispersed. So Gae (Yu Oh Seong) reads the letter. The letter states the ground transportation route open. Bong Sam encourages all merchants to use the ground transportation route. He will guarantee the merchant’s safety.
The Head Merchant hears the letter and demands to see Bong Sam. He arrives. Major stare down between our merchants. The Head Merchant can’t believe that Bong Sam won’t take his deal. Bong Sam says blocking trade and hoarding is wrong. The Head Merchant details all he’s done for the King. Bong Sam counters that merchant’s pay taxes to the King too. The Head Merchant is livid. His assistant interrupts saying So Gae has returned with the high quality paper. Bong Sam and the Head Merchant are stunned.
Bong Sam rushes outside and finds the paper is here. Gol Dae says things just turned about this way. So Gae smugly shows the sales contract. The Head Merchant says Bong Sam will regret rejecting his offer. Bong Sam says that he can get the money for the stables and reestablish Chun Merchant group on his own. Bong Sam tells the Head Merchant he must be judged by the merchant rules for his actions, as they must all be. So Gae scoffs at Bong Sam attitude. Bong Sam zings So Gae by stating that it wasn’t his father that begged the Head Merchant for entry but So Gae’s father. I feel So Gae’s burn – love it!
Gol Dae, our big dumb lug, asks Bong Sam if he did wrong by selling to So Gae. Bong Sam tells him he got taken in by So Gae’s glib words but he won’t throw away Gol Dae. Bong Sam tells everyone to enjoy the evening, tomorrow they’ll make another deal.
So Gae tells the Head Merchant he is the one that can take out Bong Sam. The Head Merchant gives him the same offer he gave Bong Sam. So Gae remembers his father imploring him to reach the goal the offer contains. So Gae bows to the Head Merchant and promises to succeed. He is stoked for the opportunity to fulfill his father’s wishes.
So Gae whines that Bong Sam opened the ground transportation route to Mae Wol. She recommends he defeat Bong Sam by gloating about his wealth and steal business that way. So Gae likes the idea.
The Head Merchant meets with the powerful merchants. So Gae tells everyone that the new merchant traffic from the ground transportation will cut into their sales. He recommends none of them sell fish, thread or silk to the merchants. The Head Merchant implores the others to not sell to the new traffic. How will they make money? The Head Merchant tells them it is stockpile time. To control the merchant traffic they must stockpile. He pledges to lend money to the merchants without interest to help them. The merchant pledge their support by putting their stamp on the contract. So Gae is pleased. The Head Merchant is pleased.
Bong Sam, Gol Dae, Sun Dol plan to trade silk. So Gae follows.
Bong Sam et al talk other merchants into taking the ground transportation group. So Gae catches up to the group. It gets testy between the old merchant and So Gae.
Bong Sam reaches out to So Gae. He tells Bong Sam that he isn’t a great man and will soon learn the path following will be his downfall. Bong Sam tells So Gae a great merchant needs ethics and credibility. Bong Sam he can achieve this by following his father’s footsteps. So Gae strides away insulted.
The Head Merchant meets with Bo Hyun. The Head Merchant says the influx of merchants from the ground transportation is problem. Not my problem Bo Hyun counters. The Head Merchants counters that Bo Hyun’s assets are tied up in the tangible parts of his empire. If his empire crumbles, Bo Hyun’s assets become worthless. That gets Bo Hyun’s attention and cooperation. The Head Merchant asks for immunity no matter what he does to succeed. Bo Hyun agrees.
Sun Dol reports to Bong Sam that no merchant will trade with them. Bong Sam reads the notice banning sales to them. The other merchants report they cannot trade either. What to do?
So Gae and his band merchant are pleased their plan is working. The merchants are stuck without being able to trade. So Gae soothes those that fret the plan could backfire.
Bong Sam is now lighting rod for derision of the other merchants. Yes, they are turning on each other. So Gae watches pleased. Bong Sam urges everyone remain calm.
The Head Merchant offers the same deal to Bong Sam, who rejects it, and So Gae, who takes it. Another indicator of the measure of our leading men. Bong Sam who is evolving to a high ethical standard and So Gae who has no ethics at all. So Gae’s plan to strangle the trade of the merchants coming off the newly opened ground transportation route is going well…for now.
* Bong Sam called the Head Merchant out for his actions. The Head Merchant’s lofted position did not spare him from Bong Sam’s tongue lashing and disdain. To get Bong Sam to back off the Head Merchant offered what he thought would be a prize Bong Sam could not say no to. But is wasn’t Bong Sam’s father that wanted the prize in the past, it was So Gae’s father that begged for it. I loved when Bong Sam outed So Gae’s father as the one that had begged the Head Merchant not his own. That burned So Gae but good. I have to credit Bong Sam for treating So Gae with politeness. He does not openly loathe So Gae. If he only knew that So Gae daily plots the demise of his business and his life. I liked Bong Sam’s interactions with Mae Wol at the temple. He was clear – let’s treat each other as friends, if you want something more I will not visit again. I was also glad the Mae Wol’s back hug wasn’t blown up into a huge misunderstanding between Bong Sam and So Sa. Finally when Bong Sam told So Gae that ethics and credibility were needed for success, the unspoken but clear message was that So Gae would never have both.
* So Gae ‘s plan to destroy Bong Sam is underway. Here’s the problem I had with So Gae this episode. He’s evolving into a one note character. Lie to Bong Sam, destroy Bong Sam…rinse, lather, repeat. In previous episodes I had a sense of danger and urgency that So Gae would kill or take away Bong Sam’s will to live a successful life. Now I believe that Bong Sam will persevere.
* So Sa misinterpreted Mae Wol’s back hug of Bong Sam. Thankfully that was nipped in the bud quickly. I didn’t like that So Sa told Bong Sam that she didn’t understand business at all but knew they owed the Head Merchant their lives and therefore should cut him slack. The previous episode So Sa demonstrated that she did understand business to the Head Merchant. This is a minor quibble. Not much is happening with this character so there isn’t much to say.
* Mae Wol relished Bong Sam’s friendly visit and tried to persuade him to see her as a woman. Mae Wol had to be thrilled when So Sa walked in one her giving Bong Sam a back hug. She offers So Gae good advice about how to work against Bong Sam. It’s all for naught, Mae Wol, all for naught, wanna bet Bong Sam continues to beat the odds?