The Head Merchant’s inheritance plays out it’s final act. Who wins? Who loses?
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 34 Recap
We start with Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk) , Sun Dol, Gol Dae and Wol stunned at the 10 million in promissory notes. Wol urges Bong Sam to read the Head Merchant’s note: How heavy is my heart? Money kills and saves people. My money wasn’t good for people. Now that I face death, I feel the weight of my sin. Use the money meaningfully and let it flow through the people. Bong Sam declares he cannot accept it. It’s not his money. He did not earn it. He wants to take the money but he didn’t labor for it. He can’t take money that destroyed people. Sun Dol declares this is an opportunity to protect the people and merchants they love.
The former assistants and So Gae (Yu Oh Seong) are not happy. Do they have to revert to their poor origins? So Gae is glad the money was burned instead of going to Bong Sam. Folks, this is the first time the former assistant hasn’t intuited to the truth of a situation.
Wol urges Bong Sam to take the money. She risked her life. The Head Merchant risked his to transfer the money. Bong Sam asks if that is Wol’s true wish. Bong Sam agrees to meet with the Head Merchant. If he has a solid plan to use the money, Bong Sam will accept the cash.
Team Bong Sam are relieved they escaped death from the bandits. Food and drink are ordered. So Gae and the former assistants spot the merry Team Bong Sam. They wonder how they managed to escape the bandits. Man Chi orders them to leave. They exit. But So Gae lingers and listens. He can’t believe the men are merry with Wol captured. The light bulbs go off and they all understand. Bong Sam has the money. Bong Sam is heading to see the Head Merchant.
Bo Hyun is livid the Head Merchant’s money went up in smoke.
The Queen is stunned the Head Merchant’s money went up in smoke. The Nephew doubt Bo Hyun hid the money. Mae Wol (aka Gae Dong (Kim Min Jung)) agrees with the Nephew much to his mirth. Any body else loving the love-hate vibe between these two? The Nephew declares they need to release the Head Merchant. If the people find out they killed an old sick poor man, sentiment will be negative. The Queen agrees.
Mae Wol tells the Nephew that life and money don’t vanish easily. She states the Head Merchant’s money is sick not dead. He stares at her and then playfully says her lips should be only for kissing. Then he kisses her! Mae Wol is stunned. He laughs then leaves. She barks at him, he’s still got the curse of death of him. He chuckles and goes about his business. I’m loving it! So interesting that for a late episode character, the Nephew intrigues me.
Bong Sam and Sun Dol arrive at the Head Merchant’s home. They see the royal notice. Bong Sam tears it down declaring the Head Merchant deserves respect. The Head Merchant is surprised to see Bong Sam who shows the money that Wol brought him. Unbeknownst to them, someone watches.
So Gae bursts into the Government official’s room interrupting dinner. So Gae declares the money isn’t gone. Stunned they get up to leave. The Nephew can’t believe that Mae Wol was right. I love that he is irked by her correct prediction. He leaves with So Gae following.
Bo Hyun is also en route to the Head Merchant’s house.
They all meet outside the house. The Government officials tells Bo Hyun to wait. Bo Hyun declares he should go first and literally runs past them. LOL! That rascal Bo Hyun, he’s like a child!
Bong Sam asks the Head Merchant what he should do with the money. The Head Merchant says he cannot leave people behind him. But he wants to leave evidence that his life matter. He asks Bong Sam to make that happen for him. The Bo Hyun bursts into the room and demands the money. The Government officials enter the room and demand the money. Bo Hyun begs, just give me the 500,000 you promised. He grabs the money is stunned to count 10,000,000! The Government officials demand the money. The Head Merchant declares the country is a mess. Bong Sam confirms rice prices are escalating. The Head Merchant declares bad laws created the situation for escalating prices. The Government officials declare soldiers will be called. Bong Sam is livid at their treatment of the Head Merchant. He shouts for everyone to calm down. The Head Merchant bemoans he won’t be able to leave anything behind. He starts to burn the money. His assistant blocks the officials so the money burns. The Head Merchant apologizes to Bong Sam. He tells the Government officials they should stop lusting after money and do their job if only for one day. He coughs up blood. Bong Sam and his assistant cluster around him. The Government officials leave.
Bong Sam walks away from the Head Merchant’s house. The Nephew meets him and introduces himself. The Nephew asks why the Head Merchant gave him the money. Bong Sam says it was to give ordinary people hope. The Nephew sees Bong Sam’s appeal and says they will meet again. Is the Nephew Bong Sam’s fairy Godmother? Sun Dol warns Bong Sam to be careful around the Nephew.
Mae Wol is shocked to hear that Bong Sam is meeting with the Head Merchant. She recalls the Head Merchant accusing her of killing So Sa. Mae Wol panics. What if the Head Merchant told Bong Sam his theory about who killed So Sa? She leaves quickly.
The Head Merchant is on his deathbed. He asks his assistant to get Bong Sam.
Mae Wol runs to the Head Merchant’s house. She falls down. Her assistant helps her up. She continues to the Head Merchant.
The Head Merchant meets Bong Sam. He tells Bong Sam that So Sa taught him money doesn’t buy someone’s heart which is more valuable than money. He tells Bong Sam that money should be used justly but that went up in smoke. He gives Bong Sam a globe. Bong Sam sees how small their territory is. The Head Merchant declares everything changes and that Bong Sam has a bright future in front of him. Bong Sam thanks him.
Mae Wol brushes past Sun Dol and interrupts the Head Merchant’s meeting with Bong Sam. The fear and tears on her face tips the Head Merchant to why she is there. She falls on her knees and cries begging him (to be quiet). The Head Merchant takes her hand and tells her but then he starts to cough. He waves everyone out of the room. Bong Sam leaves. The assistant leaves. Mae Wol stays.
Bong Sam tells Sun Dol the Head Merchant isn’t doing well. Sun Dol notes that Mae Wol looked upset. Bong Sam says the sun is setting.
Mae Wol thanks the Head Merchant for his silence. He declares it is all meaningless. People should live in kindness. He tells her to sin no more. He pats her shoulder. He coughs and asks her to go. Crying, sweating, and generally a mess, Mae Wol leaves the room. The Head Merchant stares at So Sa’s picture and tells her to be born as his daughter in the next life to he can repay the debt he owes her.
The Head Merchant makes his way outside in the setting sun. He looks back at him house. The “greatest hits” of the Head Merchant scenes play. It’s striking how strong he was in the beginning of the show, how Bong Sam challenged him, how he loved So Sa, how Bong Sam predicted this ending for him. The Head Merchant sits in the chair and watches the sun set. He calls for his assistant. He asks for the pictures of So Sa. I don’t know why but I start crying at his love for the woman that would never be his. He asks his assistant if the sun has set. His assistant tells him almost. Teh Head Merchant says life is fleeting. He questions his greed. He again asks if the sun has set. His assistant tells him yes. The Head Merchant drops the pictures of So Sa and dies. My favorite death scene of the series. The Head Merchant was the driving force of this show. That old codger learned a lesson at the end of his life, offered Mae Wol mercy, wished for a legacy he’d never achieve and touched me. He was the one of the few characters I never thought “you idiot”.
The Government officials and So Gae learn that the Head Merchant is dead. The Nephew suggests the money may be burned but the Head Merchant’s inheritance was more than the cash. He directs So Gae to find out what the Head Merchant could not sell before his death. So Gae leaves but eavesdrops on their conversation. He hears them discuss who should be the next Head Merchant. So Gae? Merchant Chi?
Merchant Chi meets with the Government officials. Bo Hyun interrupts. He offers another candidate for consideration. He recommends the silent former assistant. The Government officials can’t believe Bo Hyun recommended someone that needs an interrupter. The former assistant chuckles and says they’ll get used to him. The Nephew laughs. So Gae interrupts and declares he should be Head Merchant. Bo Hyun declares So Gae should be not considered. The Nephew notes So Gae’s ability to switch sides quickly has advantages.
The Nephew sees the merchants yelling at the Japanese merchants. So Gae, that crafty devil, send a man to throw a rock and the Nephew goes down. The merchants start throwing rocks at the Japanese merchants. The Nephew yells at them to stop. The merchants start throwing rocks at the Nephew. So Gae conveniently throws himself in front of the Nephew and shields him. He leads the Nephew away.
Shaken the Nephew visits Mae Wol. She refuses to give him her seat of honor. Gosh, this is when I love Mae Wol. He chuckles and sits in the guest spot. He asks if she sent the rock thrower at him. She can’t believe he’d suggest this. He says she predicted he would die and he almost did. She sweetly says it is good he did not die. He bluntly asks – do you want to be my girlfriend? So Gae face is stunned. Love it! Mae Wol chides him. He tells her to become his strategist first. He asks if So Gae is a good choice for Head Merchant. Mae Wol states So Gae and the Nephew will become like a family. The Nephew asks what So Gae would do first if he became Head Merchant. So Gae declares he’d negotiate with the foreign merchants. So Gae says money is tight. The Nephew asks if the Japanese merchants are the path to cash. So Gae says Japan is the place to make major profit.
So Gae nervously kneels in front of the Queen. She tells So Gae when the country is poor, the royal family is poor. He promises to make both of them rich. His tears of joy make me laugh. He explains his father would have been happy to see this day and apologizes for his tears. You can see the royals thinking get a grip.
Sun Dol and Gol Dae find Bong Sam and tell him that the Head Merchant doesn’t have a funeral set. Bong Sam is upset that the body of the Head Merchant isn’t being treated with respect.
Bong Sam, Sun Dol, Gol Dae, Man Chi, et al pay their respects to the Head Merchant. Sun Dol says this is pathetic. Bong Sam tells him he will send him away with his own hands. He sees the 5 promissory notes and puts it on the Head Merchant’s chest. He places the Head Merchant in the coffin. Bong Sam balances the coffin on his back and leave the Head Merchant’s home. They see the the signage has been changed to So Gae’s name. They take the remaining sign with the Head Merchant’s name and leave with the Head Merchant in the coffin.
They meet So Gae along the way. Man Chi is not impressed and declares the country is ruined with So Gae as Head Merchant. So Gae tells Bong Sam he could be in trouble for taking the Head Merchant’s body. Bong Sam declares the treatment of the Head Merchant’s body shameful. So Gae says Bong Sam’s actions are only because the Head Merchant left his money to Bong Sam. He declares he’s Head merchant. Bong Sam does not offer his congratulations. So Gae says their fathers must know he became Head Merchant. He thinks Bong Sam will want to fight him. Bong Sam says the war is between Korea and Japan, not between them. He tells his men to follow him and they leave So Gae chuckling at Bong Sam’s arrogance.
They bury the Head Merchant. Bong Sam recalls the Head Merchant’s words about the foreigner merchants. He wonders what the solution is to stem the foreign merchant’s influence on their company. Bong Sam realizes that money has to flow through the country or it is useless. He wishes the Head Merchant goodbye. I wish him goodbye too.
So Gae relishes his new home and position. He recalls his father’s words imploring him to become Head Merchant. Mission accomplished! He calls his assistants in the room. Everyone smiles. He order them to move his father’s grave to a place of honor.
Bong Sam learns So Gae’s father’s grave has been moved.
So Gae tells his father to look at the country that he now is the Head Merchant of.
Bong Sam arrives and sees So Gae offer drink to his father. So Gae asks if his father is proud. He’s done as his father wished. He’s Head Merchant. The grudge against the Chun family is won. A light bulb goes off in Bong Sam’s head. He drops his drink offering for So Gae’s father. So Gae turns and stands surprised to see Bong Sam. Bong Sam demands to know if it was So Gae that framed his father. Both men stare at each other.
Fine send off for the Head Merchant. He was the pivotal driving force of this show. I enjoyed the crafty old devil who used his influence, money and wiles to great effect on all the characters of this show. Who didn’t he touch with his actions?
* He had the position and money that So Gae lusted after. Instead he left no money behind for So Gae to mine but the position and power was granted giving So Gae the goal he’d lived his life for…to obtain his father’s final wish to become Head Merchant.
* He had the merchant network and wife that Bong Sam wanted. Bong Sam won So Sa when she left the Head Merchant for the man she loved. Bong Sam won the merchants through opening the mountain trading, the Chun Fish company, etc.
* He had the 500,000 that Bo Hyun waited for the repayment of. Fittingly, Bo Hyun never saw the money.
* He had the power and stacks of cash that the royal family would kill for. Fittingly, the royal family never saw the money.
* He guessed the truth in who killed So Sa that Mae Wol might have killed for. Instead he offered her mercy and did not tell Bong Sam that she killed So Sa. Even more important was that the Head Merchant never even considered telling Bong Sam. He was focused on leaving something of value behind with his life and imploding Mae Wol’s world never even occurred to him.
* Bong Sam took the money to the Head Merchant and saw it burn for real. He didn’t want the Head Merchant’s money. He would only take it IF the Head Merchant offered a plan to do good with money. Was Bong Sam smart to take the money with him to the meeting with the Head Merchant? Bong Sam’s humanity was evident in the respect he gave the Head Merchant during his life and after he died. Finally, will So Gae admit to Bong Sam that he framed his father? In a weird way, I’d almost forgotten this plot point.
* So Gae became Head Merchant. So Gae finally achieved the goal his father set for him before he died. So Gae really doesn’t care that Bong Sam doesn’t respect him. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him. He has the power and Head Merchant position, that’s all that matters. You know what they say…prides goes before a fall.
* Mae Wol received a kiss from the Nephew and mercy from the Head Merchant. She has lively interactions with the Nephew. That kiss was a surprise. I would love it if they became a couple and Bong Sam could finally escape her obsessive ways. Mae Wol’s pleading eyes begged for mercy from the Head Merchant and he granted it. She never knew he wasn’t going to tell Bong Sam.