Sun Dol has a choice to make – stick with the nobles or return to Team Bong Sam.
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 38 Recap
Bong Sam (Jang Hyuk) shows Sun Dol the picture. He demands to know why, is living as a merchant so awful that Sun Dol jumped at the chance the Nephew offered? Did the Nephew promise to restore Sun Dol’s family? Sun Dol is hurt that Bong Sam, his friend, would suggest such a thing. Bong Sam counters that he doesn’t know Sun Dol anymore? Is Sun Dol his friend and merchant? Or is he a noble? Bong Sam yells – Who are you? Sun Dol declares he’s Bong Sam’s friend. He cries with the pain of this moment. He admits he couldn’t deny the Nephew’s request, he had to help Queen and country. Bong Sam says even if Sun Dol didn’t intend it, if the Queen rises, Sun Dol is in the web of Nephew, and a noble. With sadness, Bong Sam concludes that Sun Dol has left them. He starts to walk away. Ripped with pain, Sun Dol cries out to Bong Sam – How can you do this to me? Bong Sam turns and bows to the noble and tells him merchants trump power hungry families. He leaves. Sun Dol calls after him.
Wow! Terrific opening scene! I could feel the pain of both men. Bong Sam convinced that Sun Dol was ruined by helping the Nephew, the Queen, etc. Counter that with Sun Dol’s raw pain at Bong Sam’s betrayal. You could hear Sun Dol thinking, I did this one favor to support the Queen, and you are tossing me out like garbage. Kudos to both actors for this superb scene.
The merchants discuss Sun Dol’s punishment. Gol Dae, who isn’t as dumb you think, points out that technically Sun Dol broke the rules, he did it for the Merchants. The merchants worry that if they punish Sun Dol, they will be punished by the nobles. Bong Sam brings the meeting back to Sun Dol’s punishment. He recommends they get some fresh air. Man Chi tells Bong Sam that he needs to be tough and punish Sun Dol properly or he will lose respect. I hate Man Chi’s words. I must say this character has taken a major chill pill in the latter episodes of this series.
Judgement is rendered. Sun Dol’s merchant tag is taken. Sun Dol demands to know why Bong Sam stripped him of the merchant tag. Bong Sam declares Sun Dol is banned for 3 years. But what there more. For the other crimes, Sun Dol is to be beaten 30 times. Gol Dae frets that this will eradicate the friendship. Bong Sam and Sun Dol stare intensely at each other.
Gosh the 30 strikes are difficult to watch. Sun Dol passes out and blood spurts from his head. Bong Sam calls for the doctor. The Nephew sees them carrying Sun Dol to the doctor. He tells Bong Sam the Quin Dynasty soldiers have taken over. The Nephew says he’ll care for Sun Dol. He tells Sun Dol is not a merchant but a man that worked to save the royals. Bong Sam blocks the soldiers but then allows Sun Dol to be taken. The Nephew leaves.
The doctor tends Sun Dol. The Nephew comments that Bong Sam is hard headed. Mae Wol (aka Gae Dong (Kim Min Jung)) counters Bong Sam has high standards for behavior. The Nephew chuckles Bong Sam and Sun Dol are over.
Sun Dol’s belongings are packed up. Everyone feels bad about the situation.
Gol Dae asks Bong Sam if he’s really sending Sun Dol’s things away. Man Chi tells the men that Sun Dol is a noble and cannot mix with merchants. Dude, the Sun Dol has been living with you merchants for a long time. Of course he can mix and be a merchant. Gol Dae points out the friendship should count. Gol Dae, will you be the only voice of reason left? Bong Sam won’t ask Sun Dol the noble to do the work of a merchant. What’s more the merchants that aided the Nephew are now in trouble with the Quin Dynasty takeover. That has priority over Sun Dol.
Sun Dol receives his belongings including the shirt he and Bong Sam traded so long ago. Bong Sam looks at the shirt he and Sun Dol traded so long ago. Nice touch for the writer to remember this moment and weave it into this moment. Bong Sam asks what he’s supposed to do, Sun Dol, his friend. Bong Sam runs to find Sun Dol. He beats on the door calling to his friend. Sun Dol hears Bong Sam and says he’ll go speak to Bong Sam. The Nephew says talk to Bong Sam, and his noble days are over. Decision time – which family will Sun Dol choose – blood family or merchant family?
Bong Sam tells the Nephew he’s going to take Sun Dol back tot he stables. Have at it, is the Nephew response. Bong Sam is all smiles when he visits Bong Sam. He says everyone feels bad. Bong Sam urges him to come home with him. Dear Bong Sam, when you order your friend beaten within an inch of his life, you may want to start the conversation with an apology. Sun Dol tells Bong Sam he’s not returning home with him. Ouch! Sun Dol’s family was killed by beheading or pushed off a cliff. Bong Sam offers to help Sun Dol make graves for his family. Bong Sam takes Sun Dol’s hand who pulls away. Sun Dol tells Bong Sam to call him by his legal name Sun Yu. Bong Sam declares they are still friends. Bong Sam apologizes for putting the merchants before their friendship. Sun Dol says he sees now they are too different. He tells Bong Sam to leave. Sun Dol warns Bong Sam his tactics could ruin all the merchants. Resigned, Bong Sam takes his leave. Sun Dol cries. Bong Sam walks away.
Sun Dol calls to him. He tells Bong Sam that he’ll try and help the merchants that helped the revolt. He tosses Bong Sam’s shirt onto the fire. Ouch! Harsh! That hurts! Bong Sam is stunned. He lifts his hand to Sun Dol who won’t look at him. He walks away. Outside the gate, Bong Sam knows their friendship is over. Inside the gate, Sun Dol knows their friendship is over. Gol Dae asks Bong Sam why he returns home alone. Bong Sam says nothing. Dear Bong Sam, while my heart hurts for you, you made this mess. You accused first and asked few questions later, you stripped Sun Dol, your punishment was harsh (hot tip – think twice before you take advice from Man Chi).
The Nephew is pleased that Sun Dol has joined his team. He tells Mae Wol he solved a problem for her. Mae Wol says she owes him. The Nephew declares it’s time to retrieve the Queen.
Mae Wol tells the Queen things have settled down and she can return to palace. The Queen is happy and grateful for Mae Wol’s help. The Queen takes Mae Wol’s hands. Mae Wol is pleased.
At the palace the Queen tells Mae Wol she’s an honorary royal complete with access and home. Mae Wol is overwhelmed and thrilled.
Mae Wol is glowing as the soldiers call out her new title as she passes the stable guys. She smiles big at Bong Sam but the smile is wiped off her face when she sees Wol.
Wol asks Sun Dol why he didn’t expose Mae Wol. Sun Dol is blunt, what I did or what I promised or said as a merchant, has nothing to do with me now. He tells Wol to leave. She glares and leaves.
Bong Sam and Gol Dae pay a visit at Mae Wol’s new house.
Mae Wol is reunited with her parents. Her father rejects her, declaring his daughter is dead. Mae Wol tries to convince him, it’s really her. He pushes her away. No shaman can touch him. He leaves. Her mother leaves too. Mae Wol runs after them. In the courtyard she begs them to stay. Both parents declare they don’t know her. Mae Wol pleads. Her father pushes her to ground. He tells her a shaman is not something to be proud of. Her shaman path has shamed him. Mae Wol grabs her mother’s skirts and begs her mother to live with her. Her mother tells her to never see her again. Mae Wol screams, pleads, and cries but her parents have gone. She passes out. Bong Sam, who has watched the encounter, carries her inside. He tells the assistant to get blankets. The beauty of the actress that plays Mae Wol is that she delivers emotional on point moments. We know Mae Wol’s family rejected her for her shaman ways. We feel Mae Wol’s hope that maybe her new status will let her parents change their opinion. But no, her father rejects her cruelly. Her mother is forced to do the same. Mae Wol eats the dirt of the ground as she watches her parents leave. I felt her pain and desperation.
Wol decides she needs to see Bong Sam. Gol Dae worries she likes Bong Sam. Wol gives him the “you are a imbecile” look and leaves.
Bong Sam sits next to Mae Wol who dreams of the night her mother saved her from being buried alive. She wakes and sees Bong Sam. I love it when Bong Sam calls her Gae Dong. I get that he still sees her as his friend, Gae Dong. He is blind to her and so her friendship, more important now that he has lost Sun Dol has meaning to him. Mae Wol tells him the new title didn’t matter as much as seeing her parents. She tells him if she’d married him her shaman ways would have been subverted. She asks if he ever thinks of her as a woman? Bong Sam pats her hand, like a brother, and tells her it will be ok. Not the response, she wanted and she cries.
The next morning Wol wants to see Bong Sam. She goes to Mae Wol’s house. She can’t believe it when she sees Bong Sam’s shoes beside Mae Wol’s shoes. She jumps to conclusions as Mae Wol’s assistant pulls her away.
Mae Wol tells Bong Sam being with him is the only thing that gives her happiness. Bong Sam tells her he’ll likely go bankrupt. He asks if she’d throw away her position, money, to be with him. Oh no, oh no! Mae Wol promises to help him. She’ll be a good merchant’s wife including raising his child. Bong Sam says she’s had a tough life, if she wants his warmth, he’ll share it. He wipes away her tears of joy. Oh no, oh no! Bong Sam, you are settling! Bong Sam leaves. Mae Wol looks at him tenderly. It took 38 episodes for Mae Wol to earn a proposal from Bong Sam. I really didn’t think Bong Sam would propose. I was wrong.
Wol has watched their exchange and has revenge on her face. Stop thinking about it Wol and start acting on it.
The Nephew asks what Sun Dol wants. He wants to be Head Merchant. That surprises the Nephew. Sun Dol assures him he can handle Bong Sam.
The merchants tell Bong Sam that Sun Dol is now the Head Merchant. Bong Sam is stunned. Sun Dol’s new old assistants visit Bong Sam. Sun Dol has invited the merchants to visit him. Bong Sam is not happy.
It’s the grand opening. Sun Dol, the Nephew, and a grim Bong Sam “enjoy” the festivity. In private Bong Sam berates Sun Dol for inviting the Japanese merchants. You can’t stop progress is Sun Dol’s response. Sun Dol says they’ll sell what they must to make money. Bong Sam doesn’t believe it. Sun Dol tells him to believe it. He calls Bong Sam behind the times. Bong Sam says Sun Dol is not considering how Korea’s merchants, craftsmen, etc. will suffer with his plan. Sun Dol says it must happen. Bong Sam is livid. This plan will destroy the country. Bong Sam said the same to a similarly obstinate former Head Merchant. Bong Sam knows the solution. Sun Dol asks what the solution is. Bong Sam says he’ll find out soon enough. Bong Sam leaves.
Bong Sam addresses the merchants. He tells them it is their job to stop the country from going bankrupt and people starving. He says the job is too big for them. He tells them people must have rice, salt and cotton. Bong Sam all they need to do is protect those three products to stop the downfall of the country and save the people from starvation. He urges them to save the country. The merchants agree and cheer for him. Mae Wol watches him. In private she tells him he will need lots of cash to buy the rice, salt and cotton. Bong Sam plans to use the stable money and make additional deals as needed. Mae Wol promises to help. She chides him that she has connections too. She tells him she wants to help him before she walks away from her position. Bong Sam thanks her. She basks in his praise.
Sun Dol is not happy that Bong Sam plans to use 200,000 merchants to buy rice, salt and cotton. The assistant tells Sun Dol that Bong Sam and Mae Wol are going to get married. The Nephew is stunned by this news. Sun Dol says this marriage will not help them. The Nephew admits that he knows Mae Wol’s secret too (that she helped kill So Sa). He tells Sun Dol to tell Bong Sam the secret. Sun Dol counters that they should shut down the Chun merchants. He argues they cannot beat the merchants, the Quin Dynasty, and the Japanese at the same time. He’ll take the Chun merchants under his wing. The Nephew is stunned. Sun Dol is positive this is the move to make.
Sun Dol went from beaten ex-merchant to Head Merchant in a single episode. Bong Sam tried to get Sun Dol to return but his apology, such as it was, was too little to late. Bong Sam was surprised by the moves Sun Dol made. The Nephew was surprised by the moves Sun Dol made. Me? I was impressed but I miss my smiling Sun Dol. This grim determined Head Merchant isn’t the version of Sun Dol I want to see. The scenes between Sun Dol and Bong Sam were terrific. While I hurt for Bong Sam, he choose business over friendship, and created this mess. Is Sun Dol really working against the merchants? Is there any chance he is working to help them? I think that may be wishful thinking on my part. Both actors, Jang Hyuk and Jung Tae Woo, did a terrific job with their joint scenes.
* Bong Sam over punished Sun Dol and lost him. Bong Sam weakly apologized but Sun Dol would have none of it. It left Bong Sam reeling. When Bong Sam saw Mae Wol’s parents harshly reject her, he stayed by her side and offered a weak proposal that made Mae Wol’s day. I’m still shaking my head that Bong Sam and Mae Wol are engaged.
* Mae Wol dreams and nightmare came true. Dream – Mae Wol is made an honorary royal. Nightmare – Even with the royal position her father declares his daughter dead. He buried her alive years ago due to the shaman stink. Her mother, who saved her from being buried alive, must also reject Mae Wol. Dream – Bong Sam offers a weak proposal. Not proud and willing to accept any crumbs Bong Sam offers, Mae Wol accepts blissful that finally she’ll get her man. Looks like the Nephew and Sun Dol who are members of the “keep Mae Wol’s secrets” club, are willing to tell her secretes. Can’t come soon enough for me.