Uncle Samsik – Season 1 Episode 16 Recap, Review & Ending Explained

Rotation and Revolution

Uncle Samsik Episode 16 drops us into Samsik’s memories of meeting San, of his speech about pizza and how he helped a fruit seller on the street.

Seoul, May 16th, 1960, citizens continue to protest for democracy and at the Act event, Samsik’s new guy passes the Federation accounting books to Yeojin, claiming he’s a fan of her father but he seems suspicious.

At a new Chinese restaurant, Jang and Hong meet, Jang noting that there’s no rush on the confessions he’d been sent to collect. While at the Act event, San connects with Rachel alerting Yeojin to something fishy but he won’t tell her anything. Yeojin tries to warn him away from Samsik but it’s too late, he’s already the monster she believes him to be. As Woo-seok announces the legislation to protect against corruption, Rachel invites the President to meet San and Hanmin emboldens the troops, all going to plan.

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Meeting his contact at the restaurant, Samsik hears that Jang is a regular at another restaurant that’s said to be where the enemy meets regularly. While inside, Jang convinces Hong to hold the confessions for a bit and Park Won-il chases then shoots Hong. But he’s then killed by Jang’s men.

Waiting for the signal, Hanmin holds tight as Samsik gets a call about Hong’s shooting. He rushes to meet San. Meanwhile, San’s outside and spots someone with a Revolutionary Army armband and heads the other way.

At the hotel, San sees Rachel take the President upstairs but then spots an unnerved Samsik who suggests they cancel everything. Hanmin joins them and the three discuss cancelling. But Hanmin says he’ll connect with Jang and San readies to meet the President. Still, Samsik tries to dissuade him believing they’ve been compromised – but San won’t listen. On his way to meet the President, San readies his gun.

Outside, Choi arrives to hear that the 89th has confessed to the coup. Samsik heads toward the meeting room, with a smug Ki-chul waiting at one end while Choi enters the hotel from another. Dejected, Samsik hears that Ki-chul knew his plans all along and is in bed with the Second Infantry Division.

While elsewhere, Jang puts on his Revolutionary Army armband. Hyun-seok rushes Choi to the meeting with the President to announce another coup. And Jang gives the order to his team to move out. Choi suggests the President remain safe in the room and San catches on to Hyun-seok’s plans. The Assembly and guests are asked to remain at the hotel.

As the military fills the hotel, Ki-chul wants to know who betrayed him – San or Samsik. Hyun-seok tells Choi their men have arrived but San sees this isn’t exactly to plan. The US military calls the president asking if he needs backup. San tries to warn Choi without alerting everyone but Rachel holds him back.

Hanmin and his troops are blocked by Jang, and Jang tells him they support the Second Infantry Commander, arresting Hanmin.

With Ki-chul, Samsik confesses he planned everything himself, without San. Samsik begs Ki-chul to spare San, who’s extremely intelligent and useful. But Ki-chul says he doesn’t have a say, that the Revolutionary Army command will decide. Ki-chul reminds Samsik that he has no real power and army personnel block him from leaving.

San walks in the rain, about to shoot himself, but Jang is there. And in the bunker, Soo-il takes Choi to dispose of him. Later under interrogation, San asks why Hyun-seok betrayed Choi, getting a convoluted answer about being a soldier.

With Samsik, Jang shares that the Federation want to spare San but the Army sees him as dangerous. Jang offers to kill San instead of Samsik but Hyun-seok receives a call to release San. When San sees Jang taking away a tied-up Samsik, he’s given a moment to speak to him.

In his last few moments, Samsik tells him he’s tired and sorry for corrupting him. But San disagrees noting that he himself is a hypocrite. With regret, Samsik confesses that he’s never eaten pizza before, then he’s taken to his execution. At the pit, Samsik wonders why an unknown soldier is doing the job. While in the building, San hears the gunshot and cries.

Now in 1968, San announces a freeway from Seoul to Busan, noting how the world will soon be filled with Korean exports. To the press, ‘Minister’ San answers questions about the budget and ‘Minister’ Ki-chul confirms that construction will happen on time while General Jang is part of the team on stage. Afterwards, San hugs Rachel and her brother who congratulate him.

With a smoke, San remembers things he’d learned from Samsik about the earth’s rotation and revolution – and the kind of man he referred to as his Uncle.


Ending Explained

If you haven’t finished the series, prepare for spoilers…

How does Samsik accumulate so much power?

From the moment he takes revenge as a kid, Samsik uses his brains to get himself out of situations. He’s a guy who bides his time, feels deeply yet makes decisions that serve his version of the greater good. And he collects people who owe him favors, moving himself up the ladder, always reaching for more. He could’ve been a gang leader of an area of Seoul easily, but Samsik’s dreams are much bigger than a neighborhood, a city or even the whole country.

Why does Samsik choose San?

Samsik is impressed with Sans’ brains, integrity and charm but also his ability to see the bigger picture. The pizza thing – it symbolizes a desire to expand beyond Korea, to get beyond roots and be a rainmaker on a much bigger scale. Only San can get him there, as everyone else, including Kang, can’t see beyond Korea’s borders.

Why does San work with Samsik even though he knows how he does things?

San is an idealist but several circumstances make him come around to Samsik’s way of thinking. Even though Samsik herds him I think San knows what’s going on and let’s push him toward an ultimate alliance. Once he’s been disillusioned, and starts to see himself as the hypocrite Yeojin sees, San just wants to create the future he sees for Korea. A means to a beautiful end. One that only Samsik seems to want to support.

Does San plan to betray Samsik?

I don’t think so. Even though they doubt each other in different moments, I think San took the dream they jointly created and pushed ahead to create the future he envisioned. After all, no one else seems to understand his dream or that it’s possible for Korea. 

Why does General Jang betray everyone in second a coup?

Jang is underestimated from the start, even by Samsik. When Samsik tells him in an early ep that he made his dog a general, well, that was probably a mistake. He’s a dog with a gun, power and probably a longer memory than anyone imagined.

How does General Choi go so wrong?

Choi believes in his team and himself. Samsik picks this out in an earlier ep – that Choi isn’t a guy who betrays, so his brain doesn’t assume it in others. In every interaction, you can see why San admires him – he’s a good guy trying to do what’s right for the country. A Peter Pumpkinhead (see XTC reference) who would’ve been a great leader. But the power-hungry – multiples of power-hungry – planned almost from the start to use his name and take over. I’m looking at you first, Hanmin.

What happens to Samsik?

Although I don’t want to believe it, it appears as though he joined Hamin in the unmarked grave. He tips us off that something else may have happened in that final thought about the soldier and the fact that we don’t see him die. Did Jang help him escape to Osaka as he’d planned? One can only hope there was some mercy in there.

Why does San want to shoot himself?

Once San recognizes that his team is no longer in control and that they’ve been betrayed, he watches as they take Choi away, likely to his death. He reaches out to save him but Rachel stops him, realizing that San will die too if he tips off Hyun-seok. His defeated walk in the rain is because he knows not only did they fail in their mission, he let them take his other ‘father’ Choi. A man who believed in him. Additionally, Jang put that idea in his head – if things don’t go to plan, he’s better off dead. And not in a John Cusack way. However, he’s picked up before he can make the move.

Why does San carry on in politics?

Once Samsik is gone and everything is over, he still has his reconstruction plan. It’s a way to honor Samsik by making their dream come true. And in 1968, he’s now a Minister even though it’s taken considerably longer to get him there.

Why does Samsik agree to marry his former tail to his office worker?

At his heart, Samsik is a Robin Hood who takes care of those who have not. Having lived in the mud himself, he always takes care of the people who serve him, from the kids who run messages to the tail he brought into the fold. And then gave a job. And a wife.


Episode Review

Wow, talk about taking one for the team. Even though Samsik starts out seemingly quite selfishly puppeteering, somewhere he falls for San’s idealism and in the end gives him over to Korea instead of saving himself. His success is setting San on his way to building their joint dream. And again, there’s that beautiful bromance we’ve spotted in previous episodes where the two seem to really see each other.

Hanmin is key player through all this, also an Albright guy, he’s got his own ideas for the future that we never see. Maybe he thinks he could do a better job than the current bribable country leadership. One assumption could be that, like Ki-chul, he sees the opportunity for power. Played by Seo Hyun-woo, he’s a little under-appreciated. There’s a moment in this last episode where Hanmin goes apoplectic at the turn of events – it’s his greatest moment in the drama. He realizes not only is this not happening as planned, but that he’s going down. It’s brilliantly played. 

Then there’s Jang – from the beginning, there was an indication that he wasn’t the most trustworthy. And he had reasons to want to beat Samsik at his own game. But still, I thought there was a level of respect between them, that he would save him in the end. Did that happen somehow? That young soldier who took him to the pit seemed a little off. Was Samsik whisked to Osaka like he always wanted? But away from San and the power he’d surely still acquire through his intelligence and ideas? It’s all speculation since we didn’t see the love shot.

What we do know is that San carried on working to restructure the country – and as we see today, the relatively small country of South Korea does some massive exporting from Samsung and Hyundai to (in more recent years) K-pop and beauty. We also see in that final scene that San continued his affiliation with Rachel and Michael Jeong of the Albright Foundation. Thinking about it, the Albright Foundation recognized his abilities even before Samsik did.

So, while not a true story, Uncle Samsik is based on some historic happenings in the tumultuous 60s. Maybe back then there was a sensitive and generous puppet master somewhere in the background pulling strings, bringing South Korea to what it is today.


What’s your favorite Uncle Samsik moment? Any burning questions you’d like us to add to the Ending Explained section? Let us know in the comments below. 

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2 thoughts on “Uncle Samsik – Season 1 Episode 16 Recap, Review & Ending Explained”

  1. Wheezy, hello! Thank you for reading and for commenting. You’ve made me go back and rewatch the final scene. You’re correct – it’s more a full-body ‘American’ hug without a cheek kiss. I’ll correct it in the review and well done for catching it.

    So pleased you’re enjoying the reviews! We love to hear feedback. Thank you and happy viewing!

  2. Thank you so much for all the detailed reviews! This is still my go-to website for episode recaps. I unfortunately did not see Rachel kissing San on the cheek at the end though – I wonder if we’re watching different versions.

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