Bong Sam is in a life or death situation. He needs help to extract himself. The odds are not good.
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 24 Recap
Good grief Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk) is being flogged but good. His claim of being framed and request to see So Gae go unheeded. The plan is simple…beat a confession out of him. Bong Sam’s response is simple…endure and not confess.
Taking a break from the flogging the official and Bo Hyun yell each blaming the other for the unsatisfactory position they are in. Bo Hyun says this mess isn’t his fault, it is the Head Merchant’s fault.
So Gae (Yu Oh Seong) tells Mae Wol (aka Gae Dong (Kim Min Jung)) this time even she won’t be able to save Bong Sam’s life. The Head Merchant put Bong Sam in jail and no one can get him out but the Head Merchant. So Gae says too many people have placed a target on Bong Sam’s back. Mae Wol declares Bong Sam is her destiny and she will save him. So Gae, ever pragmatic, watches her go and muses if Bong Sam dies then Mae Wol will start her next destiny…with him. I wonder if So Gae is capable of love, or is it possession of Mae Wol that he wants?
Meanwhile back at the stables, everyone frets about how long Bong Sam can endure the torture. Sun Dol decides action must be taken. He wants money to bribe the officials. He removes the bandages from his eyes not caring about his own sight but rather Bong Sam’s life.
Sun Dol meets with the officials representation the will of the local merchants who request for Bong Sam’s release in writing along with a promissory note for 30,000. The official pretends outrage at the bribe. Unfortunately, the false accusation cannot be proved, therefore Bong Sam’s innocence cannot be proven either.
So Gae offers Bong Sam drink. Bong Sam asks if So Gae planted the leather at the stables. Did So Gae want him dead. So Gae pins the Head Merchant with the death wish for Bong Sam. So Gae is candid about his confusion why the Head Merchant wants Bong Sam dead. So Gae advises Bong Sam to confess and die peacefully. Bong Sam utters the Head Merchant’s name. Does he realize the Head Merchant wants him dead because Bong Sam is the father of So Sa’s baby?
Mae Wol tells So Sa (Han Chae Ah) that she is the only person that can save Bong Sam. She tells So Sa to beg the Head Merchant for mercy for Bong Sam. So Sa refuses. Mae Wol is stunned. Mae Wol declares this whole mess is because of her. So Sa resolutely says she cannot intercede. Mae Wol accuses So Sa putting herself before Bong Sam. So Sa denies this. Mae Wol then calls her a chicken. So Sa counters that she is a mother, the baby comes first. So Sa cannot save Bong Sam without the possibility of the Head Merchant killing her baby, Bong Sam’s baby. She cannot and will not intercede.
Mae Wol is majorly bummed. What to do?
Bong Sam and So Sa think about each other. Mae Wol ponders her next move.
Mae Wol asks Bo Hyun to spare Bong Sam. He laughs. No way, he’d stick his neck out for Bong Sam. Mae Wol suggests Bo Hyun could use Bong Sam. No way. Mae Wol goes for the ego…didn’t you lose the tax position you loved? Wouldn’t having Bong Sam under your control bring 200,000 merchants under your power? She sees Bo Hyun is interested. Similar to So Rye’s manipulation of Hak Joon in the past. The woman’s power is behind the scenes through manipulation and influence.
Good grief, the flogging is tough to watch. So Gae claims to have no knowledge of what Bong Sam claims. Everyone stares at Bong Sam. Will he confess? Nope, Bong Sam refuses to confess to illegal leather selling. Confess or die are the presented options. Bong Sam recalls So Gae’s claim that it is the Head Merchant’s orders that have him here.
Bong Sam is in a world of hurt when the guards dump him in his cell. Mae Wol wants to administers medicine but Bong Sam is unconscious. She chews the medicine and administers it mouth to mouth. Bong Sam stirs. He imagines he’s seeing So Sa NOT Mae Wol. She’s stoked. He imagines So Sa while Mae Wol tells him their hearts are united even if they live separately. He imagines So Sa urging him to live. He calls So Sa’s name. Ouch! Mae Wol drops his hand. She looks away, gobsmacked that he didn’t see her but saw So Sa instead.
Bo Hyun arrives and So Sa wants to know why. He refuses to say.
Mae Wol urges Bong Sam to make a deal to live. Forget honor, live. Bong Sam utters he wants to live.
They bring Bong Sam before Bo Hyun. He’s surprised to see So Gae and Mae Wol in attendance sarcastically thanking them for their support. They flop Bong Sam into a chair. Bo Hyun asks if Bong Sam saw death’s door. Bong Sam disavows illegal leather trading. Bo Hyun gets mad. Don’t you get the situation? Bong Sam declares he can’t die. Bo Hyun tells him to offer anything to save himself. Bong Sam crawls to Bo Hyun and begs for his life. Mae Wol turns away. So Gae does not turn away. Bo Hyun asks Bong Sam if he can lead the 200,000 merchants while serving him. Bong Sam starts to respond but So Gae interrupts. Bong Sam will say anything to save himself. Bong Sam has a grudge. Mae Wol interrupts. Grudge or not, Bong Sam is willing to deal. So Gae is angry at Mae Wol’s words. Bo Hyun asks Bong Sam to swear on his father’s name, can you lead the merchants while serving him? Bong Sam grapples with the situation. The merchants trust him. He pulls himself up right. Bong Sam declares he almost caved but he cannot betray the trust of 200,000 merchants. Mae Wol cannot believe it. So Gae grins. He loves the predictability of Bong Sam’s high ethics. Bong Sam tells Bo Hyun to have him killed. Bo Hyun laughs and agrees death is the only option for Bong Sam. I’m seriously wondering how Bong Sam can escape this trap.
So Sa begs Mae Wol to help her see Bong Sam one last time. Mae Wol cannot believe her gall. Mae Wol declares she did everything in her power to save Bong Sam while So Sa did nothing. So Sa begs for the chance to say goodbye to the biological father of her baby. Mae Wol rolls her eyes at the request.
Mae Wol sneaks So Sa out of the house allowing her to pose as her assistant. I like the framing of the scene with both women that love Bong Sam heading to the prison.
Mae Wol and So Sa arrive at the prison. Mae Wol bribes the guard to open the door. So Sa enters Bong Sam’s cell. Mae Wol looks into the camera, she’s too nice sometimes.
So Sa implores Bong Sam to wake. They stare at each other. He reaches out. She takes his hand. She cries. He realizes she’s really there, this isn’t a dream. She helps him sit upright. They stare at each other.
Mae Wol watches discreetly and thinks to herself, she only has one option to save Bong Sam. She leaves.
So Sa offers a meal she made herself. Bong Sam doesn’t have the coordination to work the chop sticks. She stares stunned. He thanks her for the meal and apologizes for not being able to eat it. She spoon feeds him. She cries. He struggles not to cry. He declares the food delicious. He tells her not to cry. He needs her to be strong. He’s going to meet his father and sister. He doesn’t want to think of her crying as he prepares to join them. She cries harder. She can’t do it…she can’t let him go. Bong Sam shakes his head. He’s going to die.
When So Sa returns home the Head Merchant is in her room and mad.
Mae Wol prays at the temple for Bong Sam’s life to be spared.
So Sa gives the Head Merchant a noose. She’s firm. She’ll kill herself and the baby if the Head Merchant allows Bong Sam die. She is resolute. Save me, kill me, you choose. She apologizes to her baby. The Head Merchant stares at her pregnant belly. That is tons of moxy for So Sa!
Sun Dol and Gol Dae ask if it is the Head Merchant is behind his death sentence. Bong Sam says he cannot prove it even if it is. He cannot shame So Sa by pointing the finger at the Head Merchant.
The Head Merchant is stuck. So Sa won’t bend. He declares he must be old. Everyone is beseeching him. He knows that love cannot be severed at his whim. He will save Bong Sam. In return So Sa must give birth to a healthy baby. He’ll raise the child and send So Sa to live with Bong Sam. She cannot believe it. She won’t leave her baby. She’ll stay with the Head Merchant. She thanks him. He doesn’t look happy about being forced to make this choice.
The Head Merchant gives Bong Sam’s release note to his assistant to take to the government officials. The stable boys hear that Head Merchant has sent his assistant. They hurry to find out what this is about. They decided to relieve the assistant of the note. They stage a distraction and the assistant’s pocket is picked. Sun Dol reads the note. The Head Merchant asks that Bong Sam be killed. Wow! I’m surprised. The Head Merchant says one thing and does another. I know I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. I felt the Head Merchant was sincere when he told So Sa he’d save Bong Sam. Hatred and jealousy have gripped the Head Merchant. Welcome to the dark side. Sun Dol and Man Chi ask a man to forge an alternative note. The forged note is slipped back into the assistant’s pocket. As he walks away, he’s relieved the note is where he left it.
The assistant delivers the Head Merchant’s note to the government official.
So Gae waits for Bong Sam’s verdict and subsequent beheading. His assistants wonder why all the stable guys are in town. So Gae, who is NOT dumb, immediately understands something is afoot.
The verdict is read. The charge was not matched with a confession. The merchants stand behind Bong Sam. Therefore Bong Sam is declared innocent. The crowd goes wild. So Gae can’t believe it. Bong Sam can’t believe it.
The Head Merchant can’t believe it. He asks the government official what happened. The official did as directed, he’s come for the promised money. The Head Merchant asks to see the note. He sees it is a forgery asking for Bong Sam’s release. The government official asks if anything is wrong. The Head Merchant laughs. Bong Sam is like the little engine that could.
Back at the stables, Bong Sam reads the real note from the Head Merchant asking for Bong Sam to be killed. Bong Sam burns the note. They can’t believe it. Why is Bong Sam destroying the evidence? Bong Sam declares the paper does not matter. The words, the intent, only matter and are engraved on his heart. He will fight the Head Merchant head to head now. May the better business man win!
Bong Sam lives because his friends forge a note. I love the irony of the ethical, won’t budge an inch Bong Sam, was saved by trickery from his own team. Go team Bong Sam! Fight fire with fire! Once again, Sun Dol steps up and saves Bong Sam. I loved how So Gae immediately knew something was wrong when the stable merchants came to town. I loved how the Head Merchant realized he’d been bested and could not explain the situation to the government official. He was stuck.
* Bong Sam refused to confess. That flogging was tough to watch. Bong Sam bent but did not break. He refused to confess to crime he did not commit. He refused to work for Bo Hyun and betray the trust of his fellow merchants. Bong Sam’s ethical standards are high. I liked how Jang Hyuk played the scene in the prison cell when So Sa visited. Stunned, realization So Sa was real, being unable to grasp the chop sticks and eating rice from a spoon and declaring it delicious. Then he told So Sa he was meeting his father and sister very soon. The emotion in the scene played real and raw.
* Sun Dol and Gol Dae are true friends to Bong Sam. Sun Dol threatened his recovery to deliver the forged note that saved Bong Sam. Gol Dae realized last episode that Bong Sam could be the baby’s father and said so. So while I say Gol Dae is a big lug, and he is, he does have moments of insight and his loyalty cannot be questioned. This episode Gol Dae and Sun Dol wanted Bong Sam to name the Head Merchant as controller of Bong Sam’s situation. They knew someone was the puppet master and correctly assessed it was the Head Merchant.
* So Gae’s hope that Bong Sam would die fizzled at the end. So Gae isn’t dumb and realized that the stable merchants in town did not bode well for team Evil. So Gae loves to blame others for his actions and the Head Merchant received his full blame for Bong Sam’s situation. Here’s a positive point for So Gae. When he loses, he moves on quickly to the next opportunity and does not tarry in what could have been. This “water under the bridge” (let bygones be bygones–to move on from the past) mentality serves So Gae well.
* So Sa got finally used the power of her pregnancy. So Sa has been trapped by her marriage and feeling powerless. But she put the Head Merchant in a vice when she threatened to kill herself and the baby. I liked how she quickly rejected the Head Merchant’s plan to raise her baby solo when he dangled a solo life with Bong Sam. No thank you was her swift response. That shows the measure of this woman.
* Mae Wol tried everything she could to save Bong Sam. Mael Wol shamed So Sa for not doing more to save Bong Sam. She did not understand the So Sa’s reticence was because of the baby. Mae Wol declared to So Gae that he needed to help. So Gae quickly and firmly refused. Mae Wol enticed Bo Hyun to save Bong Sam. She noted controlling Bong Sam would offer Bo Hyun power over 200,000 merchants. And yet when So Sa begged for a visit with Bong Sam, Mae Wol did not turn her down. She helped So Sa see Bong Sam. I like that. That gives me hope for Mae Wol where I have none for So Gae.
Shout out to kdramadreamer (aka zhaoul) for giving me the Three Day Quotes Challenge. I’m identifying my favorite quote of the episode for 3 blogs. For the Day 2 Quote I choose Bong Sam’s defiance of becoming Bo Hyun’s puppet “I almost flipped over to show my stomach and barked aimlessly like a mixed-breed mutt to live. But I cannot.” Bong Sam could not and would not betray himself and the other merchants who implicitly trusted him. That shows the measure of this man.