Bong Sam achieves one goal only to have So Gae execute the backup plan to destroy Bong Sam. Will So Gae’s plan work?
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 23 Recap
So Sa (Han Chae Ah) tries to return the candy dish to Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk). He asks can’t she accept anything from him? She stares, cries, and swallows the candy whole claiming she has to swallow her heart. Bong Sam says he’s heart is the same. They stare at each other, in pain, in love, and unable to act on it.
The Head Merchant spies our couple. He overhears So Sa asking about the election. So Sa asks Bong Sam to withdraw. Bong Sam says he’s doing this to regain the stable and help his people. So Sa tells Bong Sam that So Gae will win the election. She slips and references her pregnancy. Bong Sam asks about the baby. So Sa tetters on telling Bong Sam who the father of the baby is.
The Head Merchant interrupts their conversation. He takes So Sa away. Bong Sam grabs her arm. The Head Merchant pulls her away after removing Bong Sam’s hand.
Mae Wol (aka Gae Dong (Kim Min Jung)) shows up. Does she teleport to Bong Sam’s location? Angry, Bong Sam asks if Mae Wol gave So Sa the candy dish. Mae Wol tells him he and So Sa have let their feeling linger instead of extinguishing them. Bong Sam warns Mae Wol not to interfer again. Mae Wol is taken aback. Bong Sam is serious, interfere and you’ll never see me again. Mae Wol’s mouth drops open in surprise as Bong Sam leaves.
The Head Merchant flings So Sa down in her room. He spots the candy dish. Infuriated he orders her confined until she gives birth. Yep, she’s stuck. With Mae Wol’s decision to have her assistant become the midwife, I’m wondering what that means for the baby.
Bong Sam ponders So Sa’s words, the words that could imply he had a vested interest in her baby. Gol Dae, our faithful dumb lug, identifies the elephant in the room. No way the baby could be yours he claims. At the point, you’d think Bong Sam would realize when Gol Dae declares something couldn’t be true, it usually is.
It’s election time. So Gae (Yu Oh Seong) speaks to the merchants and offers a reasonable speech. He handles the hecklers. He ends his speech with passion. I bet he surprised himself with that amount of emotion.
Gol Dae sneaks around the Head Merchant’s house until So Sa’s maid, Wol, catches him. She can’t believe he has the gall to come. She asks Gol Dae “Do you have a brain or not?” I had to chuckle at that. He has a letter for So Sa. Wol takes the letter. The Head Merchant’s assistant sees the interchange.
Bong Sam gives his speech to the gathered merchants. His comments on taxes and fees hit a nerve with the merchants. How are their taxes being spent? For the benefits of the merchants or the rich nobles? Bong Sam promises to clean up the corruption. The merchants cheer. So Gae sighs. Mae Wol smiles in appreciation. Bo Hyun and the Head Merchant are not happy.
The rich merchants meet and complain about Bong Sam. Some see sense in his words and leave. They decide to get rid of Bong Sam. How many times have those words been uttered this series? The Head Merchant tempers their furor. They don’t have a legal reason to get rid of Bong Sam.
Hold it, Man Chi is thrilled with Bong Sam and his speech. Yes, the earth is now spinning backward. Sun Dol is concerned that Bong irritated the powers that be. Bong Sam guarantees he’ll clean up the corruption.
So Sa reads a letter from Bong Sam which asks if he’s the father of the baby. The Head Merchant takes the letter and about explodes. So Sa begs forgiveness. The Head Merchant yells he loved her. She begs for Bong Sam. The Head Merchant declares she will never admit the truth. Wol enters the room and begs for mercy. The Head Merchant makes So Sa write a letter to Bong Sam denying the truth. I wish Bong Sam hadn’t written the letter and spoken directly to So Sa. Her mouth would deny the truth but her eyes would reveal the truth.
Bong Sam reads the letter. So Sa denies the truth. She tells him that he mustn’t hurt the Head Merchant. Bong Sam decides to take So Sa at her word. This reveals a flaw in Bong Sam. He tends to be literal. He does not typically believe that there are layers of motivation in actions.
The Head Merchant orders So Gae to kill Bong Sam. He suggests embarrass Bong Sam to win the election. So Gae, who can never say no to hurting Bong Sam, readily agrees.
So Gae ponders how to achieve Bong Sam’s death. So Gae doesn’t understand why the Head Merchant wants Bong Sam’s death.
The election map shows that the Head Merchant has more territory. Wealthy merchants tell Bong Sam et al that the Head Merchant is spending big money to get So Gae elected.
Bo Hyun, the Head Merchant, and So Gae ask Mae Wol who will win. She encourages them to spent lavishly to secure So Gae’s victory. The Head Merchant agrees to this.
Man Chi calls So Gae out for stealing the stables promissory note. Bong Sam is shocked. So Gae insults Man Chi to secure an angry reaction. Bong Sam and So Gae have a sidebar discussion. So Gae is not ashamed of trying to secure the promissory note. Bong Sam agrees to look into the matter slowly. Bong Sam tells So Gae that the money he is spending on the election is illegal. So Gae tells him whatever it takes to win, he’ll do. He says when Bong Sam loses, he’ll become a pathetic loser.
So Gae’s assistants incite Man Chi to violence. Sun Dol finds the bribes. Now it is a melee of hand to hand combat. Sun Dol gets a major whack on his head and goes down hard. Bong Sam grabs him and Mae Wol is summoned. She murmurs to Bong Sam that he didn’t want to see her again. He grabs her and takes her to Sun Dol. The doctor has said Sun Dol will go blind. Mae Wol recommends no light and broth from abalone. Sun Dol wakes and says he’ll follow Mae Wol’s advice. Sun Dol sends Bong Sam to the election, as it is election day. Mae Wol agrees to take care of Sun Dol.
Bong Sam explains his name means “uphold 3” basics of being a merchant – trade routes, credibility, and treat your customers well. He encourages the merchants to band to together to bet back to the basics. The crowd reacts with passionate applause.
The Head Merchant rails at So Gae for not eliminating Bong Sam. So Gae declares the Head Merchant will still rule even if Bong Sam wins the election.
Bong Sam shares that he’s worried about Sun Dol. He remembers his father telling him to try with his heart and then wait for heaven’s answer. Bong Sam wants to win the election. Gol Dae bursts in the room. The votes are counted. Bong Sam leaves to learn his fate.
The announcement is made – So Gae has 33% of the vote and Bong Sam has 67% of the vote. Bong Sam wins! The crowd goes wild. The Head Merchant stalks away angry. So Gae is disappointed. Bong Sam gets the shoulder ride through the crowd. He is grateful. So Gae stares daggers at Bong Sam. Mae Wol grabs her head. That’s not good, Mae Wol’s head pain typically means something bad will happen to our hero.
The celebration continues into the night. Bong Sam tells the crowd today they celebrate a good day. Hip, hip, horray! The Government official arrives. Bong Sam asks why they are there. There is a complain that the stables have been illegally trading in leather. Bong Sam is stunned. The officials perform and search and seizure at the stables. They find the leather (no doubt planted). They arrest Bong Sam. He declares they don’t trade in leather. Bong Sam realizes So Gae framed him. The police beat him. Bong Sam demands they call So Gae.
So Gae loses the election. To retaliate he frames Bong Sam and the stables with the charge of illegal leather trading . We knew that So Gae had a back up plan when the Head Merchant railed at him for not eliminating Bong Sam. It is a full circle moment as So Gae plants the leather in the stables to frame Bong Sam in the same manner he planted drugs to frame Bong Sam’s father. I have to give Bong Sam credit for realizing the planted leather was So Gae’s doing. At least he understands the So Gae will do anything to win the war.
* Bong Sam realized So Sa’s baby could be his. Too bad he had to ask the question through written word. The Head Merchant read the letter and forces So Sa to deny the truth. Bong Sam, who trusts So Sa, did not wonder her response was coerced. Bong Sam’s default mode is to trust people and believe there is good in everyone. While admirable for our hero, it has also made him blind to the manipulations others around him. I’m pleased that Bong Sam at least sees So Gae as willing to lie, cheat, steal or murder to win.
* So Gae’s backup plan puts Bong Sam’s reputation and life in jeopardy. So Gae suffered through the indignity of losing the election to Bong Sam but he was prepared for the counter strike. Planting illegal goods on Bong Sam repeated what So Gae did the Bong Sam’s father. So Gae did not realize that the Head Merchant’s fury at Bong Sam was associated with the baby. I have no doubt once he figures this out, he will ruthlessly use this to his advantage.
* So Sa got caught reading Bong Sam’s letter and paid the price of perjury in her response per the Head Merchant’s demands. So Sa is trapped by her marriage and status. When the Head Merchant railed at Bong Sam, So Sa claimed it was all her fault. That only made the Head Merchant more angry, that his wife, protected Bong Sam.
* Mae Wol got the tell tale head ache when she sensed danger for Bong Sam. Shout out to Prettysup who noted this in the comments from a previous episode. Mae Wol was more palatable this episode. She got a dig at Bong Sam when he asked for her help with Sun Dol, but she helped him. She agreed to stay with Sun Dol so Bong Sam could attend the election speeches. Mae Wol cares for Bong Sam deeply. She is willing to work against him to make him vulnerable and open to her offer of romance. Will she spend the entire series waiting in vain?
Shout out to kdramadreamer (aka zhaoul) for giving me the Three Day Quotes Challenge. Her day 1 quote writeup was fabulous. I’ll take a straight forward route and identify my favorite quote of the episode I’m blogging for the next 3 blogs. For the Day 1 Quote what stood out for me in this episode was when So Sa’s maid, Wol, asked Gol Dae the question we’ve all wondered “Do you have a brain or not?”. Gol Dae bless his big loyal lug heart is not the brightest brain out there.