Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Pil Joo continues to impress with his master strategist moves, and Money Flower continues to suck me into its dark and dangerous web. It’s quite sublime. 🤩
I hope you guys are ready to chat about Money Flower episodes 5 & 6! Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. I repeat: no spoilers for future episodes please! We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this pair of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Our story is swirling with more complications and darkness (and fantastically charged dramatic music) than ever, and it’s compelling and dysfunctional and delicious, all at the same time.
As we’d predicted, Seo Won absolutely hasn’t come back to dabble in child’s play; she’s clearly got her eyes set on being acknowledged as the mother of Boo Cheon’s baby, and is ready to play hard in this high stakes game.
From the way she slyly leaves the sonogram in Boo Cheon’s shirt pocket, to the way she makes friendly contact with Mo Hyun then collapses on the bathroom floor thus prompting a connection between her and Mo Hyun, once Mo Hyun moves to help her, to the way she basically threatens Boo Cheon with suicide, Seo Won is bringing it, and to be honest, I find her a lot more interesting than Mo Hyun. Well, part of that has to do with how she’s threatening to derail Pil Joo’s grand plan by refusing to quietly leave the picture like he tells her to, so there’s a can’t-look-away-from-this-impending-trainwreck appeal too, I think. 😅
Of course, part of what makes Seo Won interesting as well, is the fact that she’s not a one-dimensional villain type of character. In fact, she seems genuinely frightened and distraught when Pil Joo seeks her out and basically uses violence to intimidate and threaten her. And, it seems like she does consider Pil Joo’s quietly lethal offer for a while, before deciding that she will fight back.
Speaking of which, Pil Joo really is an antihero type; there are things that he does in this scene (well, in this whole show, honestly) that should have me condemning him, but I find that I’m quite hypnotized; it’s like I can’t look away.
He seems to flip a switch in his head, when Seo Won starts to talk about going to Mal Ran as the grandmother of her baby. The way he casually and methodically flips over the table, along with all the food on it; the way he gets up and walks towards her, all measured and purposeful; the way he grabs Seo Won by the throat and tells her to answer that she’s understood what he’s said; it’s all so menacing, in a tightly-coiled-yet-languid sort of way. Even the way his voice tightens mirrors the way his hand is tightened around her throat. I know I’m supposed to feel repelled by this intimidation, but I am quite spellbound. 🤭
Certainly, my sympathy for Pil Joo comes from his context, and Pil Joo’s entire stance on Seo Won takes on a deep pathos, when we realize that he sees his mother’s situation mirrored in Seo Won’s.
When Yong Goo asks Pil Joo if he will just keep giving Seo Won large amounts of money, Pil Joo’s answer, that he will have to keep giving Seo Won money, until he loses the memory of him, his mother and his brother falling into the water, says a lot about what his true attitude is, towards Seo Won. There’s a lot more empathy in him for Seo Won, than he lets on, and this puts a whole new spin on the way he threatens Seo Won. Now, in a twisted sort of way, it even looks like he’s threatening Seo Won for her own good, because it wouldn’t do her or her baby any good, to be entangled with Cheong A.
This episode, we also hear Pil Joo talk about his revenge plan, when Yong Goo asks him what he plans to do after he succeeds in making Boo Cheon Chairman of Cheong A.
“When [Mal Ran] sees Boo Cheon is nothing but a scarecrow… and that I have the complete control over the company, she’ll feel immensely wronged… that she won’t be able to wipe all her tears with her hands. I’ll wipe her tears away… and tell her who I am.”
Hmmm. That’s interesting, that Pil Joo’s first response when it comes to his revenge plan, is to tell Mal Ran his true identity. Based on his earlier voiceover, where he’d told Mal Ran not to give way to anything, “until he pokes his own eyes, cuts his own flesh, and throttles himself,” I’d gotten the impression that Pil Joo’s primary target was Grandpa Chairman. It looks like Mal Ran has a big emotional impact on Pil Joo, for him to name her response to his true identity as a primary goal in his revenge plan.
I guess this could go back to our theory that Mal Ran’s seduced Pil Joo since his teens, and used sex as a tool to control him? Despite Pil Joo’s unruffled demeanor, it’s quite possible that Mal Ran’s done more damage to him as a teen than one might first realize. 🤔
Even now, in the present, we still seem to see a subtle emotional power tussle between Mal Ran and Pil Joo. The way she tries to gift him with what looks like a very expensive watch, and the way he plays along for a while, before taking it off and asking her to only give it to him on the day of Boo Cheon’s wedding, appears to be subtext for his rejection of her advances.
The body language in this screenshot lines up with my theory: the way he’s sitting upright, with his head slightly tilted back, and looking at her through lowered lids, implies a position of relative power, while the way she’s leaning down to proffer the watch, implies a position of relative submission. It’s becoming clear to me in a way that I hadn’t realized on my first watch, that even though Mal Ran is technically the master, and Pil Joo, her servant, in many ways, Mal Ran is the one craving Pil Joo’s acceptance and affirmation.
Now, I’m not saying that Pil Joo rejects all of Mal Ran’s advances, because, as we’ve seen, there are times that Pil Joo takes Mal Ran into his arms to comfort her. However, it’s becoming clear that he doesn’t accept all of her advances, and this selective rejection seems to be an assertion of power, in a way. It’s all quite dysfunctional and completely captivating. 🤭
On a random tangent, can I just say that in the scene where Mo Hyun’s father asks Pil Joo if he can guarantee Mo Hyun’s happiness in her marriage to Boo Cheon, Pil Joo’s response is played brilliantly by Jang Hyuk. All Pil Joo says is, “Yes,” but that sheen of tears in his eyes is unmistakeable, and says so much about how he truly feels about watching Mo Hyun marry Boo Cheon. 💔
At this point, I just wanted to say that for all of Boo Cheon’s whiny helplessness and foolishness, he really does seem emotionally affected by the realization that Seo Won is carrying his baby.
Credit to Jang Seung Jo, Boo Cheon’s reaction, as he starts to process the fact that he’s going to be a father, is played with complexity. Boo Cheon still comes across as whiny and helpless, and there’s definitely a deer-in-headlights sort of shock in his gaze, but there’s also a.. desire to be responsible, whether or not he has the ability to be responsible.
Even though Pil Joo makes complete sense when he tells Boo Cheon that he can’t have both Cheong A and Seo Won, Boo Cheon can’t seem to accept this. He’s definitely reacting in a manner that’s strongly emotional, and probably not at all helpful to Pil Joo’s big plan. And that’s why he completely falls for Seo Won’s (probably fake) suicide attempt, and seems set to dig himself deeper, even though Pil Joo’s done everything to try to keep Boo Cheon out of this pit of complications.
I found the scene of Pil Joo and Boo Cheon sitting together after their father’s memorial service very ironically poignant. The significance of the candy never really clicked before in my head, but it’s now apparent to me, that Dad had loved those candies, and had made a habit of bringing them to his sons. Which is why Kyung Cheon had loved them when he was alive, and why both Pil Joo and Boo Cheon have fond memories of receiving them as treats when they were kids. How.. sadly twisted, that their individual emotional attachments to the candies, all stem from them having the same father. 😧
And now, Mal Ran’s got her radar out for Eun Cheon, while President Jang’s determined that if Pil Joo won’t agree to work with Yeo Cheon, then he needs to be rooted out of Cheong A for good. The fences are tightening around Pil Joo.. or are they?
Oh, what a tangled, convoluted, intricate web we weave, and how deliciously spellbinding, to see Pil Joo control it all, as this drama world’s ultimate puppet master. 🤩
What a journey Show takes us on, with us spending the bulk of the hour following what happens to Cheong A after Pil Joo is forced to resign; there’s so much angst and trouble that they struggle with, without Pil Joo there to make it all go away like he’d always done. And then, just when we think that Pil Joo’s turned the tables on Grandpa Chairman such that he’s able to get his job back, it turns out that Pil Joo was the very one who’d leaked the information about Pil Joo’s illegal purchasing of Cheong A shares to Yeo Cheon’s informant. 🤯
That blew my mind, to be honest. It kinda-sorta reminds me of how Pil Joo gave Mo Hyun the information about him and Boo Cheon’s true identities, thus sabotaging his own plan. However, in this case, this isn’t brought about by Pil Joo wrestling with his conscience. Pil Joo did this, with careful deliberation and intricate precision, masterminding every little detail along the way, so that Grandpa Chairman would realize his value, and have no choice but to ask him back, to solve all of their problems, and this is when Pil Joo would have the most bargaining power.
Wow. That amount of shrewd foresight and meticulous planning is nothing short of spectacular. With my first watch of this show several years behind me, I’ve forgotten many of the details, and so, I was breathlessly on the edge of my seat during the whole reveal. So. Freaking. Good. And, Pil Joo’s slow, deliberate victory walk up the stairs at Mooshimwon is quintessential coiled panther; so full of ease and grace, yet clearly full of lethal power too. 🤩
Of course, Show can’t let us forget the whole idea of Fate having a hand in connecting Pil Joo and Mo Hyun. Not only do they (really, truly) coincidentally run into each other while bird-watching, we are given more insight into their childhood connection, where Mo Hyun had been there to save Pil Joo, even though she didn’t live in Gapyeong. She’d been in the area only because she’d signed up for a training camp. And now, she still likes honey, because of the honey that Pil Joo had given her back then, after she’d saved him.
It does feel like Show’s going a bit ham with the childhood connection between Pil Joo and Mo Hyun, but since this is, at its elegant heart, a makjang, I guess I should expect it, heh.
I have to admit that Mo Hyun is coming across as a bit too sweet and innocent to feel real, at the moment, and I do think that this has to do with Park Se Young’s delivery. I do concede that it’s not an easy task to portray someone as extremely wholesome and pure, without it feeling a little forced, especially in a context where everyone else in this drama world feels like a murky shade of gray. With this scene in particular, where Mo Hyun is happily and absentmindedly musing about her past encounter with the boy who’d given her honey, it feels a bit awkward to my eyes.
What makes it work, though, is the way that Pil Joo looks at her. There’s such a thoughtful, rueful sort of sadness in his gaze. And when Mo Hyun talks about wanting to scold the boy if he weren’t living well in the present, I feel like there’s a part of Pil Joo that feels apologetic for letting her down, because he knows that he isn’t living well the way she wants him to live well.
Once again, I’m far more interested in the relationship between Pil Joo and Mal Ran. I never paid such close attention to the details in my first watch, so the more subtle hints that Show serves up to clue us in on the nature of the relationship between Pil Joo and Mal Ran were lost on me. This time, however, I’m paying a lot more attention, and I must say that Show is consistently giving us subtle but clear cues, so that we have enough subtext to piece together what we need to know, without Show having to be too explicit about it.
The first clue we get this episode, is in the way Mal Ran goes to Pil Joo’s room and sits on his bed, contemplating his absence, as she touches the sheets. Uh. This is the first time I’m noticing this, and it’s such a big giveaway, to how she feels about him. She didn’t think about him while sitting at his desk, or in his kitchenette; she thinks about him while caressing the sheets on his bed. In the dark. Ahem. 😏 I must have been blind before, ha.
The other scene that stands out to me, is how she meets Pil Joo after his return to Cheong A, in the semi-darkness, with her hair all poufed up. This isn’t her usual businesslike elegant ponytail; this is Touch Me hair for sure. And, she sets the scene by telling Pil Joo that words cannot express how lucky she is to have him by her side. Given the intimate surroundings, I gotta say, this sounds like a preamble to a seduction scene. Because if words can’t express it, how else might she express it..? Cough.
He pours champagne, while she reaches for his cheek, and apologizes for hitting him, saying that it must have hurt. Again, Pil Joo firmly but subtly rejects her advances; he makes as if to hold her hand to his cheek, but effectively removes it, and puts a champagne flute in it instead. He’s so deliberate and smooth that she can’t fault him for it, but I feel like I can see the rejection register in her eyes.
I’m actually quite blown away by Pil Joo’s response, when Mal Ran asks him about Ahn Ho Kyung, whose death was registered by Pil Joo’s (foster) father. I mean, this must be a difficult conversation for Pil Joo to have, since this is about his mother, and yet, he tells Mal Ran the story as if he really wasn’t Eun Cheon, and she really was a random, pitiful crazy lady, who’d cared for him in his growing up years.
Gosh, that story that he recounts, about her dying in her sleep while cuddling him, and him not realizing that she was dead, is so chilling especially because this is his mother that he’s talking about. And yet, Pil Joo manages to stay completely unruffled and calm, while relaying the sordid details. Had he rehearsed this moment in his mind, in case it ever happened?
On top of Pil Joo’s calm, I’m also blown away by the look of complete innocence that his features take on, as he looks up at Mal Ran while telling this story. In this moment, he really looks like a lost little boy, which is quite amazing, really, considering how impassive he is, most of the time. That’s some great micro-expression emoting there by Jang Hyuk, and I am suitably impressed. 🤩
It looks like things are going to get even more complicated from here on out, with Mal Ran determined to put any suspicion about Pil Joo maybe being Eun Cheon to rest. It’s noteworthy, though, how she throws a bit of an angry fit, when Secretary Oh suggests the correlation, and insists that she knows Pil Joo better than anyone in the world. Again, words that sound like they’re spoken by an offended lover, personally insulted at the suggestion that there might be something about Pil Joo that she doesn’t know.
We end the episode with Mal Ran receiving the DNA test results, from what look to be strands of hair that Secretary Oh had collected from Pil Joo’s sheets. Ooh. How is Pil Joo going to get out of this tight spot? Coz he has to, right?