Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I decided to have this hand-to-cheek moment headlining our post today, because it’s quite the pivotal moment, isn’t it, this set of episodes?
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. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question.
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 set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Secret Love Affair OST – Affair
In case you’d like to soak in the music as you read the episode notes, here’s Affair, one of the key pieces that we hear, this set of episodes.
I love it for how immersive it is; the plucking of the strings which forms the background of the piece, on the one hand, constant, yet on the other hand, ever-changing in its tone; the treble of the violin, wistful and full of yearning; the depth of the cello, drawing you deeper, and then deeper still.
Listening to this, I feel like the dance between Hye Won and Sun Jae as characters, comes alive in my head, and I feel.. quite hypnotized by it, really. Just, masterful.
Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
It’s completely fitting that the theme song for this episode, “Affair,” feels like a dance (at least, to my ears), because this episode, I feel like there is that kind of dance-like back and forth dynamic happening between Hye Won and Sun Jae.
In the scene at Sun Jae’s house, Hye Won is the one who’s forthright and at ease, while it’s Sun Jae who’s full of nerves and looks like he might shatter into smithereens if someone just touched him while he wasn’t expecting it.
It’s a slightly incongruous sight, Hye Won with her foot hiked up, and scrubbing it intently, while Sun Jae shakes and stutters just from the sheer magnitude of his awe, that he’s in Hye Won’s presence.
How interesting, that when Hye Won remarks that Sun Jae’s shaking so much, when he’d been so bold a moment ago (when he’d grabbed her in a princess-carry), Sun Jae apologizes as a reflex, and when Hye Won asks what he’s apologizing for, he starts to say, “For being bold,” then cuts himself off, and instead says, “For shaking.”
Ooh. How significant, that he won’t apologize for grabbing her in that princess-carry, because that’s quite the manly hero sort of thing to do, particularly to someone whom he cares for as a woman.
Another interesting beat, I thought, was when Sun Jae tells Hye Won that he’ll play for her the following day at school, instead of in this moment, because Professor Kang is waiting for her.
The look of disappointment – almost leaning into displeasure – that flashes across Hye Won’s eyes, is unmistakable. She derives so much pleasure and satisfaction from hearing Sun Jae play, that it feels like such a letdown, that she has to delay that satisfaction for another day.
I do love how artless Sun Jae is, when he tells Hye Won that he sees her as his teacher, and only wants her as his teacher.
“When I first met you… it was decided. It was fate. I always run into new people every day because I’m a courier messenger. Besides the few exceptions, they are all new faces. They all have nothing to do with me. They don’t care about who I am. And I don’t care about them.
But… you… you said that you want to listen longer. You… observed me. You asked how I lived. You also played with me. So… it was like I was born again that day. My soul… was born again.”
It might sound like hyperbole to some, but it’s clear from Sun Jae’s expression, that he’s being completely sincere.
On this note, I just wanted to say, that while it’s possible that some may feel that Sun Jae is being portrayed in an exaggerated manner, I personally find Yoo Ah In’s interpretation of him, as a very intense young man, quite pitch perfect.
It’s believable to me, that Sun Jae is a very earnest, fervent individual, who gives all of his passion to the things and people that he cares about. He’s intense about his music, and he’s also intense about Hye Won.
Later, in the scene where Sun Jae comes online and pours out his heart to “Mak Ki Hyung,” he’s the one who’s comfortable and at ease, while it’s Hye Won who becomes increasingly self-conscious, as she learns about the frank extent of Sun Jae’s true feelings towards her.
“Her resume stands out. But her charisma stands out even more. I’ve never seen anyone like her. Scary, feisty, and fun. At the same time graceful. I’m lost. Even her feet are pretty.” … “A woman’s scent. I’m about to collapse.” … “It’s more like… my soul has been captured.. Like my body and heart. All of it.”
“Hyung! Have you ever played Schubert’s Fantasie with a girl?” … “I literally climaxed. Though I wouldn’t know because I’m still a virgin. But it couldn’t be better than that even if I wasn’t. I gave everything to that goddess.”
Oh my. Sun Jae’s sharing is completely no-holds-barred, and embarrassingly frank. To Hye Won’s credit, she tries to play it down, even as it’s clear that her mind is reeling from the reveal, that Sun Jae is completely and utterly smitten by her.
The way that Hye Won surveys her reflection in her iPad, then examines her feet, and puts on a bit of nail polish on it, then gets up out of bed to take it off again, tells us so clearly, that she’s trying on Sun Jae’s lens, as she looks at herself, and it’s like seeing herself with new eyes.
It’s also telling, that she finds it uncomfortable enough, that she’d shake off the thought, as she shows, in taking off the nail polish.
In the following days, the thing that strikes me most, is how harshly Hye Won starts to treat Sun Jae, in their subsequent interactions. I see this as her way of drawing lines between her and Sun Jae.
While it’s not pleasant to watch, and I feel sorry for Sun Jae, for feeling so mortified each time she unleashes a hard tone or stern admonition on him, I can understand her choice.
Barring actually confronting Sun Jae about it, which would be embarrassing for them both, this does seem like the more professional path to take. It’s definitely better than her being really nice to him, and leading him on, right?
And, I do think there’s some overcompensation going on, there. It’s true that Hye Won comes on rather too strong, in being tough on Sun Jae, and I tend to think that that’s a result of her own emotional response to Sun Jae’s inadvertent confession.
If she wasn’t personally affected by it, she’d probably be able to give a more measured, calculated response, I feel.
Poor Sun Jae. I can understand his mortification, and his subsequent bad mood at home. How awful, though, that his gruff grumble to his mother about the hand warmers, turns out to be the thing that ultimately leads to her accident and death.
I can imagine how awful and guilty Sun Jae must feel, in the wake of his mother’s death. I do believe that his decision to sell the piano, is his way of punishing himself, for her death.
How telling, that after Sun Jae drops out of the running for a spot in Seohan University, that Joon Hyung brushes it off in irritation, saying that “unlucky kids will always be unlucky.” Clearly, his heart had never truly been to help groom Sun Jae; he only cares about how this affects him and his career.
It’s Hye Won who sits, silently, contemplating it all, and it’s Hye Won, who eventually sends Sun Jae that book on Sviatoslav Richter, and it’s that book, that manages to touches Sun Jae’s passion, where it’s been shut, in the dark.
I think that shows us pretty clearly, that Hye Won understands Sun Jae more than just about every other person, in his world. No one else is able to get through to him, and it’s this action of hers, that galvanizes him into going to see her.
Sure, part of the reason the book has the effect it does, is because of who sent it.
At the same time, however, it has to do with the book’s focus, which is Richter’s pure and unquenchable love for music. I feel that Hye Won sees that pure and unquenchable love for music mirrored in Sun Jae, which is why she sends that book to him.
When Sun Jae goes to see her, he says that he’s fine, and tells her not to send anything like that again, but the tremor in his voice, and the tears sheening in his eyes, tell me that he’s not as sure as he’d like to be, and he admits quite readily, too, that he’s lying.
I don’t think Hye Won means anything more than a simple gesture of compassion, when she puts her hand on his cheek, in response to his tortured utterance, that it doesn’t matter, because it’s all hell anyway, but that’s basically the thing that causes Sun Jae to lose what little control he has.
The way he grabs her, then hugs, then kisses her, is so urgent, and so desperate.
As a bystander, I can see that he’s not in his right mind, and I believe that Hye Won, being as wise and shrewd as she is, sees that too. I think that’s why she doesn’t take him to task for overstepping his boundaries, and I believe that’s also why she invites him inside, instead of sending him on his way.
Or at least, that’s what it looks like to me, so far..?
Looks like I’d been wrong about Hye Won, in episode 3, in the sense that even though there might be a reasonably professional and appropriate explanation for her inviting Sun Jae into the house, it turns out that, her intentions are absolutely not on the side of professional or appropriate.
We see this in her furtive glances; the way she hides Sun Jae in the piano studio; the way she chooses not to reveal to the housekeeper that she has a guest; the way she changes tack and gets Sun Jae to leave, the moment she receives news that her husband is on his way home.
I don’t know what Hye Won had in mind – and I don’t think Hye Won herself knows what she had in mind – but it’s definitely something that triggers her conscience, to cause her to act in this secretive manner.
I really do hate the way Hye Won gets Sun Jae to leave, by pretending that she’d been too drunk to even remember letting him in, and basically making the fault his. The silver lining to this, is that she hates it too, and calls herself pathetic, for acting this way.
Just like episode 3 felt like a dance between Hye Won and Sun Jae, this episode feels like a dance between us and Show, where Show goes from drawing in close and getting us to tip our toes ever so gingerly into the tide of Hye Won’s and Sun Jae’s growing attraction to each other, to pulling away, and making the waters of possibility feel out of reach, for a long, suspended moment.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder; the withdrawal of the possibilities, which had dangled so tantalizingly right before our eyes, has a similar effect, I feel.
By taking Sun Jae and removing him from Hye Won’s world for much of this episode, and pausing their connection from progressing, for a while, it creates a hollow, not only for us, in our narrative, but it also creates an ache in both our lead characters.
Hye Won grapples with the reality of Sun Jae leaving her world, while Sun Jae grapples with the reality of giving up music.
It is a futile exercise for them both; it feels like they’re each fighting against the pull of a magnet, but that magnet is just too strong and too relentless, that they end up having to surrender to it, in the end.
We spend much of the lull getting a fuller taste of the world in which Hye Won exists, and it basically feels like one big exhibition of chaebol privilege and dysfunction.
Young Woo putting on a tearful show to Chairman Dad, so that he’d lift her passport ban, and then promptly using that passport, to take her toy boy to Paris on a shopping spree, rather than use it to visit her children, whom she’d claimed to miss deeply.
Madam Han getting extra money from Chairman Dad for “chocolate,” which turns out to be code for her stock portfolio (I think?); Hye Won having to mediate between Madam Han and Young Woo, because they have accidentally booked themselves onto the same flight, on First Class (gasp, the horror!).
It feels so indulgent, really, to have troubles like these, when there are so many bigger problems in the world.
And then there’s Chairman Dad, who takes the opportunity, while eating with Hye Won, to, 1, express a desire to switch out Madam Han for someone else, because she’s become too expensive to upkeep, and isn’t worth it, despite her, er, generous physical assets, and 2, indicate a casual interest in bedding the ahjumma who serves them bone marrow soup, just for the heck of it.
UGH. I’m quite disgusted that Chairman Dad expresses his interest in sleeping with the ahjumma so casually, and I’m just as disturbed, that Hye Won then promptly checks the ahjumma’s work schedule, to make sure she knows which days Ahjumma is off work.
Is Hye Won acting as.. the Chairman’s pimp, then? Ack. 🥴
The way Sun Jae loses it over the wonky piano playing coming from the ballet school for kids, is kind of extreme, but that just goes to show just how stressed out he is, and how he’s literally at the end of his last nerve, trying to hold it together while in self-exile.
How telling, that Sun Jae would rather choose to remain in jail, than ask Professor Kang for help. And how telling, too, that the only thing that actually soothes him and keeps him calm, while he’s in the lock-up, is the actual simulation of playing the piano.
His soul really is made for music; in this crazy, upside down, topsy turvy time where nothing in his world is as it should be, immersing himself in the music, using just his fingers, his mind and his heart, is the thing that saves him.
And how telling, on Hye Won’s side of things, that she simply can’t get Sun Jae out of her head.
She’s told him – and herself – that she only likes him for his talent, but the truth is, Sun Jae’s ardent, earnest, open-hearted passion towards her, has ignited something within Hye Won that she cannot silence. The fact that she physically flinches, while lost in thoughts of Sun Jae, as Da Mi washes her hair, says a lot.
It’s serendipitous, of course, that Da Mi approaches Hye Won for help to get Sun Jae out of trouble, but this is just the tip-off that Hye Won needs, since all her other efforts to find Sun Jae have come back empty.
On a tangent, I just wanted to say, for the record, that I don’t think Da Mi is actually Sun Jae’s girlfriend. She clearly likes him a lot, and I’m sure he knows it. He just hasn’t told her no, and he’s allowed her to say what she likes, about marrying him, but I seriously doubt that he’s ever actually entertained thoughts of actually dating or marrying Da Mi.
Perhaps he’s just waiting for her feelings for him to subside on their own?
At this point of our story, we see Hye Won’s talent for strategy come to the fore, so well. She does her due diligence and gathers all her information, but it’s Joon Hyung whom she deploys to get Sun Jae, without her appearing to lift a finger. She really is a consummate strategist.
It feels like we’ve come such a full circle, as we end this episode with Hye Won standing in the garage, inviting Sun Jae into the house.
This is such a strong echo of how we ended the previous episode, except this time, Sun Jae is no longer a secret guest whom she has to hide from everyone else. This time, Joon Hyung is the one endorsing Sun Jae’s presence in the house.
To think that this was all engineered by Hye Won, without too much difficulty at all. It makes me wonder what’s going to happen next, now that Hye Won and Sun Jae are situated under the same roof, officially.