Open Thread: Secret Love Affair Episodes 3 & 4

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.”

My thoughts

Episode 3

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..?

Episode 4

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.

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merij1
merij1(@merij1)
22 days ago

Ha. As for misreading the cause of my anxiety watching this show, no worries on not being a mind reader.

There is no question that Hye Won needs to make a serious course correction in her life. Over the years, she has fallen into a terrible place, slowly but steadily enough that she didn’t see it clearly. (Cue the boiling frog metaphor)

But when you’re experiencing the wild euphoria of a mid-life crisis, you don’t typically choose that course correction with forethought or clarity. It just happens, and then you discover whether it was fatal to your career or reputation. (Or whether you were one of the few who lucks out with it ending your old life brilliantly and starting your new one on reasonable footing.)

Under the spell of her passion, Hye Won is becoming wildly reckless. And being only 20 and equally caught up in his own passion, Sun Jae doesn’t appear to give any thought to the long-term ramifications for his older lover.

Because as you say, how can true love be a sin, right? And, hey, we only truly live in the moment, right? So YOLO, baby.

Thing is, my primary concern isn’t right or wrong or sin. That’s in play a wee bit with the age gap, I suppose, but in the case of this couple I don’t find that uncomfortable.

My problem is that I’m in my early- to mid-sixties and have witnessed quite a few mid-life crises IRL, so I know for a fact that getting blacked-out drunk on love/passion is an unhealthy state from which to make major life decisions. Or at least it is when you’re in your late thirties and no longer still eligible for the broad allowances we offer an inexperienced 20-year-old.

So for me, two tensions run throughout this show:

  1. Am I ok with the age gap, or are these two actually peers in enough other ways that it’s totally fine?
  1. Will Hye Won self-destruct in a manner from which she cannot recover, or will the passion of this OTP be exactly the stimulus she needs to re-start her life in a healthier direction?

Not knowing how the 2nd tension will resolve is what makes me anxious. With a typical rom-com or rom-drama, I would assume everything works out in the end.

But this show was written for adults.

Last edited 22 days ago by merij1
merij1
merij1(@merij1)
22 days ago
Reply to  merij1

That was a response to Eda, who said:

ok, i misunderstood, apologies are in order.

remember in “sungkyunkwan scandal”, when lee sun joon all confused and scared of being gay comes to yeo rim to help him understand what’s going on with him, (after his trip to the island with kim yoon hee), yeo rim tells him: ” a heart that is fond of someone, how can that be a sin? whoever that is.” i totally agree.

in regards to hw, no matter what, she had to get out of her bondage, in my opinion to stay, in the long run, it would have been unsustainable for her and for her good for nothing husband. one way or another it would have come to an end. no matter where it will end up with sj, he helps her to ESCAPE, so how can that be throwing her life – she will be finally starting her life, and may be with a lot of difficulties, but she will gain freedom.

eda harris
eda harris
22 days ago
Reply to  merij1

in life you never really know what will happen or how. one might have complete confidence in a relationship (or situation) and then it’s “bust”, sometimes at once, and sometimes slowly unraveling, but always unexpected, because we never expect the worst. therefore i think it’s best to live in the moment, whatever it will bring. in life we only have the moment, the past is memories, associations, as the future is speculation, projection, dreams but definitely not reality. only this moment, now, is your true reality.
i trust they both will be ok, and conquer their present and future “demons”, whether together or apart. so i think you worry needlessly, but worry is an emotion, and i should probably not argue with an emotion.
sleep well, merij1.

JJ
JJ
23 days ago

I am sooo super behind with this group watch! This is my second watch and this Show still gets to me the way it did the first time. I am glad to be reading everyone’s comments though to help shed light on the music, themes, acting, characters, etc.

My one comment I want to make about Episode 3 is my utter disappointment in her as an adult and teacher when Hye Won does not attend his mother’s funeral. None of them show up except two of the staff from the School. Tells me how they only cared for Sun Jae as a “talent” and not as a human being. This act alone on her part made me very way of Hye Won and her intentions. She has shown enough steely fortitude of managing several difficult situations. Who are they to fawn over this young man and then abandon him in this moment? Really did not sit well with me.

eda harris
eda harris
23 days ago
Reply to  JJ

jj, she does come with all of them, but stays behind the glass door, as she later says, she cannot face him. i believe, it is too emotional, too painful for her. i think she would be even afraid to break down in front of everybody, which she can not afford, for the sake of both of them.

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Su San
Su San
1 month ago

Briefly, a few thoughts:
 
* The theme song expressing the building intensity and is so symbolic, for example:
—the use of a 2-note, half-step theme on the piano represent two people,
—the theme that remains constant (their attraction), as the accompaniment (the environment) changes,
—the upward pitches as a question and the downward motion at the end of the phrase surrender
—the pizzicato represent the tip-toeing of “forbidden love.”
 
*The piano duet for 4 hands* in the background of ep 4; is a beautiful, poignant piece as it just drips with longing and anticipation. It begins with the theme song in a contrasting rhythm, then joins the accompaniment, transitions into major key, sppeds slightly and thenbecomes SJ & HW “together” (about 1.40). The two-note theme gets actually gets a response in the higher octave. The motion and pace of this piece reminds me of how the piano duet in “Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol,“ was used to express the anticipation as male lead came home to his awaiting lover.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNtS2pK9hsc&list=PLMTFenTLOBOOeJnIiNtiboQVEUY3sZkGt&index=28&t=217s

*The scenes with SunJae & HyeWon are just so subtle and sensual. Their story could have been with another art form–poetry or painting–to express love, but I’m glad it was music, and especially glad it was piano. Two hands together on one instrument is so intimate, unlike a duet between two separate instruments.
 
*I just LOVE the sound of the practice rooms when characters enter the music building. It is so realistic that it sends me back to my college years.  

I am so hooked on this drama….thanks KFG fans for all of your insights.

Lane
Lane
1 month ago
Reply to  Su San

I love love love the music of this drama, all the classical pieces and especially the 4 Hands piece of the original soundtrack.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Su San

your interpretation of the musical “themes”, as translated into emotions are most interesting. thank you for that, a completely new language to me, although intuitively i do feel the music in my emotional/intellectual centers.

JJ
JJ
24 days ago
Reply to  Su San

@Su San – I am so glad you are hooked on this drama because I am loving your comments! I am learning so much about the music they have been using in the Show. You give the music a deeper meaning for me to understand the scenes better. Thank you!

Ele Nash
1 month ago

Thank you for these group watches, kfangurl – you are brilliant to put them on and share your thoughts. Best of all, creating a cosy space where we can also share our thoughts and kdrama love. Unfortunately, I am having to side–step out the room on this one. I may pick it back up but think my head is not in the correct YAI space. I just don’t get it (his acting style) so rather than hark on that I don’t get it, I’m doing as merij1 says and scuttling away to watch other things 😉
Have fun everyone! See you on the next group watches 😘

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

See you on the other threads, Ele!

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago

For a classic performance by the eccentric genius that was Glenn Gould, here is a 1955 performance of Bach’s Goldberg variations. It’s long but can be listened to in parts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwas_7H5KUs

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

You’ve probably already heard his much later 1981 version, which is less frenetic and in my opinion superior for its interpretation.

But for sure technical brilliance, it’s hard to beat the thrill of the 1955! It’s also a very quick listen. lol

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Absolutely: here’s a 1981 recording for those interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEkXet4WX_c

Thanks, merij1.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

I didn’t realize that 1981 video existed. I wonder, is it the recording of the CD that I’ve heard so many times, or a separate recording that same year?

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
Leslie
1 month ago

I just watched SLA in January, and it affected me so powerfully, so movingly, that I’m not ready to te-watch, yet. But I want to say, that I’m thoroughly appreciating these conversations. It’s a little like watching an intense movie through my fingers – I get enough information to follow the story, but feel shielded from the emotional punch.

Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  Leslie

Or, re-watch, as the case may be.

JJ
JJ
23 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

@Leslie – This is my second watch and I am still getting the same emotional punch from the first watch.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago

I’m very aware of the danger of speaking negatively about these Group watch shows more than once. Usually if you don’t like a show you just drop it and only say something about that once in the review comments.

But here we sometimes continue to watch out of solitary to the group. So I’ve learned that it’s important not to keep harping on something and take away from other people’s joy.

That said, I will state simply that I love the show but still find YAI’s acting over-wrought. That holds me back a little and creates a weird type of anxiety. It makes me not want Hye Won to be with Sun Jae.

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Thanks for the kind words merij1. And yes the key word is recovery, slow the best way to make that go.

In Re: YAI: It is important to remember who Seon Jae is: a 19 year old, artistic genius, for whom the core of his being has gone largely unknown. He is very young, very unique, rough around the edges, a character almost out of a 19th century Russian novel. And he is playing against and off an actor who is masterly nuanced and whose character very much trained by her circumstance has repressed her passions.
It strikes me both actors are going at these roles with everything in their tool boxes. But there are reasons from a viewer’s standpoint to doubt either character or both. Hye Won is selfishly manipulative at times, just as Seon Jae’s passionate urgency is a bit too testosterone laced.
For me, both actors are putting in spectacular performances, each in their own style. And actually I find this role more appropriate for Yoo Ah In’s intense acting style than other things I have seen him in. But again the lens I most proffer is that Seon Jae is 19 and a genius artist. As such, I would expect his character to be histrionic if I were to meet him in real life.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Have you seen YAI in the movie Burning? He played that role very much the same.

I certainly get what you’re saying about why he would be so rough around the edges. Even so, it makes it hard for me to root for them as a couple. The gap is just too great.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

 “The gap is just too great.” it might be due to your preconceived ideas or the society that you are part of preconceived ideas. remember “harold and maud”, i do not know whether you saw it, but was that believable? i thought it was totally believable, but of course i saw it years ago. if you follow the asian cultures’ believe that a person can be reincarnated at least 500 times, then the soul of a 20 year old person can be much older than a person of 40 years old. but even if you do not subscribe to this believe, a human heart is a heart with same abilities to feel intense emotions, even that one heart might have more plaque on his/her arteries than the other one from the simply physical point of view. i can tell you with absolute confidence that such feelings as between sj and hw are indeed REAL in the REAL world, whether in western societies or asian – people are people, regardless of their geographical locations. and i cannot deny that each community, society has it’s own rules based on their perceptions, (like eskimos husbands would invite a guest to sleep with their wife -what are their emotions?, or a palestinian girl who would fall in love with an israely man, would be killed by her father or brothers, and regardless these cases do happen). we all have preconceived ideas, whether we are aware of them or not. but shouldn’t we strive to have an open mind? in my opinion, the characters of sj and hw are powerfully written and just as powerfully executed by the actor’s performances. and may be, just may be, the writer intentionally named it “secret affair” – to highlight the paradox in it as it is a true love story and not some cheap affair. and also, to break the norms that societies self-imposed on their people, to show that such norms are created and codified by people and thus can be changed. and may be, just may be some people can see it for what it truly is.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

Funny you mentioned Harold and Maude. I haven’t seen it since it first appeared in the theaters but I was just mentioning that Asa Butterfield in Netflix’ Sex Education (great show!) reminds me of Bud Cort.

It might be hypocritical of me but I do have a less of a problem with an age difference when the genders are reversed like this. Women are less prone to predator behavior toward young people, even though there are plenty of cases where some do.

But if this were a late thirties man and a late teens girl/woman, I would definitely not be watching the show.

In any case, my point was that the role as played increases the gap between them in other ways. What they share is a passion for music, which she has allowed to lie fallow until he comes along.

There’s another point along those lines — his role as catalyst in her life vs. as ML in an OTP — that I would make as to why I think all this is perfectly fine, but it would require knowledge about how the show ends, which would be a spoiler.

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

What they share is a passion for music, which she has allowed to lie fallow until he comes along.

But the vital thing both Sun Jae and his girlfriend offer Hye Won is their purity. That’s the catalyst she needs to correct the wayward trajectory of her own life.

When I see the story that way, it works for me. Less as an OTP love story and more like the life-correcting dynamics we saw in My Mister. What complicates this show is that it is presented as a love story. Had My Mister been written that way, I would not have watched it.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

it is all of the above. i feel the connection is definitely music to start with, but then it grows and develops, becoming a much more complex “cocktail”. but we have to wait and see, or i will slip into the forbidden future.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

I liked him far better in this than Burning. In the latter he portrays an alienated, disaffected, nihilistic character. In this a bundle of innocent passion. The former his character lacked meaning in life, in this, Seon Jae spills over with meaning. Burning is about sex; this so much more.
You have seen this before, but besides his own behavior as it grows through the course of show—no spoiling, it really is the two of them together connecting, rather than either on his or her own that convinced me from the first time they sat down and played together. I love Kim Hee Ae in this, but I do think at this point in story, Hye Won is both quite accurate in the estimate of herself after so shamelessly manipulating Seon Jae away with that transparently bunkum bit of not remembering (what she already had to know had been the most emotionally risky move of young Seon Jae’s behalf, which alternatively surprised, frightened, and utterly undid her). She is pathetic!
Seon Jae is pure, sweet, passionate as only young virginal and desirous men can be, pinning all that to the feet of what they blindly feel to be a Goddess of cosmic enchantment, and Hye Won could be said very well to be doing just what she accuses Young Woo of doing—cheap, manipulative, self absorbed.

Personally, I am touched by both characters and the way each actor delivers their roles. But my rooting interest comes from the magic of when they connect—so powerful, such a potent answer to the spiritual as well as physical longings of each.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

so beautifully described!!! and i totally agree with your assessment of yai’s characters, in “burning” and this one, although i did like his acting in both in different ways.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

True, I compared his role in Burning to SLA with an overly broad brush.

What was similar is his notion of how to portray a less educated, lower class kid interacting with upper class people. The extreme hesitancy, staring at his feet, seeming practically stupid at times when he clearly is not. Personally I find that very annoying, coming from an actor who is presumably middle or upper class in real life.

However, you are totally correct in your assessment of Sun Jae as a wild and raw talent.

One imagines Van Gogh as a 19-year-old. Brilliant but not necessarily comfortable to be around. (Van Gogh, if he had been pure of heart!)

As for the age + class gap, I do think grappling with it is key to an honest assessment of the show.

Is she a predator . . . or a pure soul trapped in bad life choices, waiting to be liberated?

And even if it’s the latter, or a bit of both, is that OK? Can we let go of our preconceptions, as Eda puts it, to embrace the purity of their love?

I assure you, if we were reading about this in the newspaper, it would not be a pretty story. But newspaper stories are not nuanced.

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

> The extreme hesitancy, staring at his feet

And the oafish way he walks, in Burning especially! lol

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
MariaF
MariaF
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

“What was similar is his notion of how to portray a less educated, lower class kid interacting with upper class people. The extreme hesitancy, staring at his feet, seeming practically stupid at times when he clearly is not. Personally I find that very annoying, coming from an actor who is presumably middle or upper class in real life.” 

I disagree that Sun Jae behaves this way, because he is intimidated by Hye Won’s social status. I think he behaves this way, because he is in awe of her beauty and talent, and because the feelings he is experiencing are very strong and totally new to him. He’d never met anyone like her before. On the other hand, there is not much trembling, insecurity, etc., when he interacts with her husband or other upper class people at the school.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  MariaF

That’s fair.

So I will amend my statement to this not-quite indisputable fact: I am personally annoyed by those shared aspects of his characterization in both SLA and Burning.

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
MariaF
MariaF
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1


As funny as it sounds, I felt kind of betrayed when I saw Yoo Ah-in in Burning, acting similar to SLA. I thought this acting style should have been retired the way they retire numbers in baseball.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  MariaF

Imagine what you’d have felt if you hadn’t liked it in SLA either! lol

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
MariaF
MariaF
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Ha! Although, if I hated it in SLA, I probably wouldn’t have started watching Burning at all.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  MariaF

Yes, but we ADORED him in Sungkungkwan Scandal.

MariaF
MariaF
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

@ merij1
He was very, very good in Sungkungkwan Scandal. But his acting in SLA (for better or worse, depending on how different people feel about it) was totally unique and on a different level. It felt as if Yoo Ah-in created a character the way Pygmalion created Galathea. Only in this case he transformed his own body and soul. Well, I probably exaggerate a bit, but still…

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  MariaF

mariaf, i watched “burning” first and then “sla”. i think this order worked out better. although there are some similarities, i see his presentation of the characters very different, only the issue of poverty is parallel and his haircut (may be). while in “sla” he’s full of burning passion and direct confrontation, he’s very introverted, quiet in burning. but did you see him in “the throne”? if not, WELL, GO SEE IT!

Lane
Lane
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

The acting in this drama is so fantastic that I totally bought into the love story, despite the problematic aspects of it. I loved how physically Yoo Ah In played Sun Jae, esp at the start of episode 3 with Hye Won in his home. His body was practically vibrating with nerves and tension, awe and attraction. He was perfect in his delivery of that dialogue about Fate with all the youthful earnestness and guilelessness and sincerity. His honesty in expressing his feelings and his direct stare made Hye Won (who lived in a world of double meanings and subterfuge) look away. I am not familiar with classical music so I did look up a video of Schubert Fantasy in F Minor. No wonder Sun Jae was so affected by Hye Won playing with him as it was an intense dramatic piece that took about 20 minutes to play. Hye Won committed to giving him the focus and the time to play the piece, totally reading his heart’s desire that to play that piece properly. When was the last time Hye Won was called beautiful and desirable? As a woman of a certain age, Hye Won must have suppressed that feminine part of her as she was in a loveless marriage. Kim Hee Ae’s acting while chatting was superb in how she was at first openly enjoying the “confession” and the compliments until it got uncomfortably candid.

His mom’s death stripped Sun Jae of all traces of innocence because he had to face the real world on his own plus deal with the crushing guilt. His attempt at self-flagellation by denying his musician soul led to his misery. The fact that Hye Won could not let go of him speaks of how much Sun Jae’s talent had touched her. I don’t believe her interest in his talent was solely to use him to cover up the corruption of the college. She reached out to him in a very intimate way – thru a book with underlined passages that told of an artist’s needs to play music – that triggered Sun Jae into action. For someone like Sun Jae, it must have felt like she was the only one who understood the gravity of what he gave up – not only the chance to go to college, but also he gave up on an integral part of his being. That scene at the garage was intense. Hye Won was inscrutable. The way the scene was filmed left me guessing about her reaction to that kiss and what she was thinking. Hye Won was a complicated character with many gray areas. I hated what she did to Sun Jae by confusing him and treating him as someone who was stupid. Yoo Ah In has an expressive face. I could feel and see him gathering up his pride as he realized Hye Won’s game. Episode 4 told of Hye Won’s convoluted work life and how cunning she was to be able to deal and manipulate both at work and at home. It told of how she avoided conflict by playing dumb at times, like when she and Sun Jae met again at the garage. She knew and he knew. This drama was all about what could be seen on the surface and what was hidden beneath.

MariaF
MariaF
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Interesting. For me it was the opposite. Secret love affair was the second Korean (or any Asian) show I ever watched. The first one was Something in the Rain. At the time I knew pretty much nothing about Korean culture, acting style, need for adjusting lenses, etc. I’m going to be honest: I definitely went through a culture shock. I found haplessness and hysterics of a 30+ woman to be appalling. I also thought that acting was both wooden and over-wrought at the same time. And those “You are so pretty” compliments made me cringe. For these reasons I was really reluctant to start watching Secret love affair. Also, the age difference was a real turn off for me: how can a 40+ woman have serious feelings for a 20 year old boy? I decided to watch it because of the glamorous reviews. Boy, was this show different! I found Yoo Ah-in’s acting absolutely mesmerizing. He and the music made to continue watching until the end. And Kim Hee-ae, of course.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  MariaF

This is a re-watch for me, so I am puzzling out I am having the same reaction the second time around!

JJ
JJ
24 days ago
Reply to  merij1

– Been meaning to comment on your comments for days now. I am not sure if I find YAI’s acting over-wrought but it does leave me with a weird type of anxiety as well. I am not sure if its Fremdschämen though. I cant put my finger on it, but it leave me uncomfortable for sure even though I think he does a stellar job in this role. For me, I saw him in Chicago Typewriter first where he was nearly monosyllabic and with little emotion in his delivery of that character, intentionally, of course. So, to see him in this role full of passion and so intense has been a definite shock for me.

I think its fine and fair to say how a Show works for you or does not work for you. I love SLA so much even with some of the difficulties I had with the Show in some characters, etc. And I wonder constantly if I am uncomfortable because this is an older woman and younger man when the media has constantly told the story the other way. I mull this over when thinking about this Show.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
23 days ago
Reply to  JJ

I too love the show. But with asterisks!

eda harris
eda harris
23 days ago
Reply to  merij1

what ‘s the deal with the asterisks?!

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
23 days ago
Reply to  eda harris

Love it but but it makes me anxious.

eda harris
eda harris
22 days ago
Reply to  merij1

are you THAT conservative? it’s only what other people prescribed. why would you swallow their medicine? why would you think that OTHER people (some in society) are more intelligent than you? conservatism is a wrongly prescribed medicine, (in most cases).

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
22 days ago
Reply to  eda harris

We’re not on the same page. What makes me anxious is the fear that she’s throwing her life away in a midlife crisis.

eda harris
eda harris
22 days ago
Reply to  merij1

ok, i misunderstood, apologies are in order.
remember in “sungkyunkwan scandal”, when lee sun joon all confused and scared of being gay comes to yeo rim to help him understand what’s going on with him, (after his trip to the island with kim yoon hee), yeo rim tells him: ” a heart that is fond of someone, how can that be a sin? whoever that is.” i totally agree.
in regards to hw, no matter what, she had to get out of her bondage, in my opinion to stay, in the long run, it would have been unsustainable for her and for her good for nothing husband. one way or another it would have come to an end. no matter where it will end up with sj, he helps her to ESCAPE, so how can that be throwing her life – she will be finally starting her life, and may be with a lot of difficulties, but she will gain freedom.
and sorry for the misunderstanding.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
22 days ago
Reply to  eda harris

I responded to you at the top by accident. But now that I see it there, I’m ok with that.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago

the title “secret love AFFAIR (affair, really?) sounds cheesy and cheap, and i believe our characters will totally agree with it. the title given by BE sounds totally fitting, “fated”, as fate is the spine of this drama. what is fate and what is coincidence, whether in life or in this story, is many times an unanswered question in my own life (that can fit in any crazy drama and be interpreted by others as a “synthetic” creation by a drama production to enhance it in any way), therefore here the chain of events seem to me quite possible and even organic, and i do not have any qualms about most of it, including the age, the social status, the speed of the infatuation (on both sides i believe, whether on a conscious level or subconscious).
kfangirl, reading your notes i was quite taken by your description of  “the dance between Hye Won and Sun Jae as characters, comes alive in my head” – i rewatched it again and it came alive for me, the whole dance, it was quite an unexpected delight to experience it through your eyes and ears, thank you for that.
episode 3 is a continuation of episode 2, where we witness a transformation of a boy-man into a man-boy in front of our eyes, awakening of a “macho” way, intuition or instantaneous passion or puppy love (after all he’s only 19 or 20). the way he carries her, like a young prince carrying his princess to safety and taking care of her, that is the beginning of FATE, which one can not erase, not deny, nor argue with… later we learn that he is even entranced with the shape of her foot (it’s not surprising to me, as i think that shapes of feet and hands are just as telling about a person as his face, or eyes, or body…). she sort of reprimands him for being bold and quaking, but i do not feel that it really bothers her, and when he mumbles his apology, she asks “what for”. sj’s world is upside down, and it seems to me that she will soon follow into this all consuming vortex. when he describes the extent of his feelings, how can she resist or withstand. she is IN, as in “you are in” – you ah in. as he understands that playing schuber’s fantsia with her is equivalent to the ancient current in a mail’s body, even that he is still a virgin, music, instinct, passion, desire – all mixed for both, although in her case it brings her back to her own experience with music in the past and in her soul, although at this point still in the subconscious. apparently, her close friend professor jo in seo picks up the vibes and tell her “you are fallen into him” and she replies “he’s fallen into me”. both statements are right, and obvious to people that have known her for many years, except her “good for nothing” husband. how did she ever end up with him, i would like to know more about it.
there is this comical scene, when sj finds her asleep and tries to take of her shoe – there is so much genuine care for her – he’s a MAN. it’s funny and tender.
and then the unthinkable – his mother is killed while bringing something that her son needed or wanted. his life goes from ecstasy to complete despair. the horror of it, especially that it happened because of his desire to have it, is crashing his whole world and everything in it at this moment – he gives it all up, a form of self-inflicted punishment, self distraction.
so touching, painful with no escape.
the last scene episode 4, might be the most painful in this drama, the scene in the garage. she’s beyond confused, he lost his mind, she can not give up on him, can not let him go, he’s crazed with pain and need for some kind of warmth from the only person that he feels a true connection to now. what follows is a hug that borders on violence, the first kiss as a MAN. he is not in control of himself at all. it is fate, or destiny, or whatever one wants to call it, but it represents a volcanic eruption of both of their souls, and they collide, as a beginning of an end.

BE
BE
1 month ago

Hi everyone. Thanks for all your moral support in last week’s post. Back surgery pre- op, any surgery really at my age, is a bit anxiety producing, and post op wooly pain blues inducing. I was touched & heartened by all your kind words. According to my surgeon, the procedure went really well, and I really liked the whole surgical crew and hospital support staff. Everyone was enthusiastic and kind, determined to take good care of me. At home under care of family and friend, with daily positive accomplishments and affectionate vibes from far & wide, small victories daily.

Pain still intimidating at times, and certainly flexibility limited, I am still not able to sit in front of a computer screen for any period of time for back and forth convos with you all, and so to deliver something on the next 2 episodes, I am keying in bits at a time on my phone keyboard, and then when the post is up, copy what I have into one comment.

Alas this means I will not be able to read KFG’s once again sensational breakdown, so I apologize up front for any redundancies.As it turns out, I only got through my commentary of Episode 3

It may well be till around eps 7-8 that I can fully engage, and already reading Trent’s comments on the very real issue and theme of transgression in show would be just the kind of thing I would love a back and forth on, but alas, I just cannot do it. I think it is a major issue and a feature not a bug of the show, to which I can only say that the best teacher I ever had, a painting teacher, met his wife who was about twenty years younger than him when she was his student at an art college. They were married for well over forty plus years. It was the kind of relationship that might lead to his firing and made it difficult for him to teach anywhere if it happened today, and for good reason, and yet…happily married for over forty years.

I am reading and appreciating everyone’s insights, reactions, secondary and tertiary commentary. Quite pleasing, and gratifying whenever one of my comments initiates a thread in response.

A couple things before diving into ep 3. The first thing would be my lens at this point for show entire, which occurred to me reflecting on 1st 2 episodes & then almost immediately reiterated in Episode 3. If I were to give the show a title, it would be “Fated.” I know a hook to the show is the idea of a love “affair” kept secret, with all the resulting lurid and suspenseful innuendo, which one suspects show will play up, but as Seon Jae tells his e pen pal that to speak of what had happened to him as falling head over heels made the thing sound cheap, so too pigeon holing this story as one of a clandestine set of trysts cheapens what has begun between these two.
And deriving a way of looking at show from that perspective, I view the show as a “Fairy-tale realist romantic concerto or opera.” Show in many ways does not make sense realistically; it makes sense as a fairy tale—all those continuous chains of events leading our OTP toward one another—and it makes sense as a musical composition—rhythms, melodies, progressions and regressions, themes and motifs working themselves out in a musical fashion, enhancing “the book,” with various emotions.
But while some of the ongoing plot seems uncannily romantic and unlikely, it is in how the characters are so realistically drawn, directed, and enacted separately and in ensemble giving show’s romance, fairy tale fatality, and musical perfections their edge and power. We, or I, at least, fully believe the world in which this drama takes place.
Episode 3 from this lens, despite like episode one being so content rich, and thus a bit hard to follow, especially I imagine for first time watchers, really enhanced my watch enormously. All the changes wraught upon Seon Jae, all the show reveals and seeming contrivances conspire to bring Hye Won and Seon Jae from his bathroom, trembling at the slightest glance of Hye Won’s foot—hard for me at 75 to quite remember that particular heartsick kind of suffering, impossible, however, to forget—to the scene in Hye Won’s garage and, lo, her decision to invite him into her house, the theme music striding along as it builds in intensity.

So much in this episode—the framing of it in Seon Jae’s angry and physical rejection of Da Mi’s embrace and intended kiss to Seon Jae’s passionate embrace and kiss of Hye Won who both resists him and is undone by it all. The wonderful camera work like other artistic elements give each scene so much resonance: the close ups of Hye Won so well framed by the lines in her bathroom walls, her face, her hands, her foot elevating the whole scenario of an older woman wanting to be beautiful for another, and then, ah, the pang, addressing her foolishness in doing so—the many faceted Hye Wan, and Kim Her Ae’s elegant, understated, and yet sympathetic performance (especially side by side Yoo Ah In’s smoldering but pure, innocent, naive, exposed! Seon Jae). 
Or the three of them, a world apart from everything and everyone in Hye Won’s world, the pals that in this moment are one family in their mourning clothes wailing at the window watching Seon Jae’s casketed mother enter the flames, what corporeality remaining, that too, after being turned to nothing more than ash.
Happening as it did, so early in the show, I have felt his mother’s death a bit of a plot contrivance, which it is, and yet her death too delivers the sense of more than just show writers, the fates of the story telling. Watching this time I was struck by how young Lee Kan Hee portraying Myung Hwa appears to be. Going on line, I was not surprised to find that in fact Lee Kan Hee is 2 years younger…younger than Kim Hee Ae because, indeed she looks younger too despite her homespun coiffure and modest countenance.
Seon Jae is befuddled by his feelings for Hye Won. When she appears more matron and motherly in the piano practice room, he is embarrassed to his bones by the encounter, so much so that teenage boys I suppose throughout generations he takes out his ill humor on his mother, projecting his anger with Hye Won. And when she is killed trying to bring him the hand warmer (so he can perform well for his “goddess”), everything perforce comes into perspective his passion to play piano, his shaking all over can’t help himself infatuation for Hye Won…next to years of real down to earth mother and child affection wrenched from his heart on his own account left him not her choice: to burn his untethered passions from his life just as his mother had burned away. He does this and yet… when she sends him the autobiography of the pianist Richter with her underlines so profoundly in tune with Seon Jae’s true soul, to his own heartache he knows his passion for playing, who Hye Won is to him cannot be burned out of him as it is the essence of the fire burning within him.

And Hye Won, too, spending her days in that soul killing world she lives in, the people she works for to whom she is in fact selling this kid as a cover for the Seohan Institute against its corrupt admission practices and whatever other financial shenanigans Lily Han is pulling off with Hye Won’s nimble assistance. At the funeral parlor, she cannot talk with Seon Jae coming as she does representing the institute set to prostitution his genius; she cannot face him. And yet in the aftermath she cannot simply let him go with the same cynical bitterness expressed by Professor Kang. Kim Hee Ae! So eloquent without speaking a word, Hye Won a fit distraction of grief.
And so it is…Seon Jae has taken the long drive in the borrowed company van and Hye Won returning home after another long day capped by the bathos of Young Woo trying even to set her up with Seon Jae’s best friend as a gigolo, him thinking it is the start of a career in acting, stupidly playing along. So disgusted, taking the liquor bottle by its neck and smashing it into something seriously scary, more scary than anything Young Woo is capable of, saying—oh the sensational dramatic irony—“This is the kind of noons I am,” which leads Young Woo to the heart of the matter: these affairs console her, Hye Won knows and understands, and she is the only one who can.
And that is the thing about Hye Won too: no matter how cold, hard, and macho she is and can be, she is a sympathetic person who is quite capable of open hearted Ed’s. Why Seon Jae can undo her: whenever his passion and purity of intent comes to the surface, Hye Won is touched and stirred:
he is a kindred soul.
One last comment on Episode 3: the progression of the foot: the musical sense of his feeling for her—from that first scene with soy oil in the bathroom to the text exchange on line to Hye Won’s painting her toes to removing the polish, to Seon Jae’s delicate, awkward, and tender ministrations of sleeping Hye Won’s falling off shoe: this building of how this minor (if at all) kink of Seon Jae’s a minor motif built carefully upon itself only reveals the true, unselfconscious tenderness of his affections. And Hye Won understands these things, and in doing so is a bit undone herself.
I will try tomorrow or the next day to send in a comment on Episode four, and this time I will have read K’s commentary. Thank goodness.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

I’m so glad the surgery went well. Take your time and recover properly!

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Good to hear that things went well, BE. Take care and take your time; we’ll be here when you’e ready.

Ele Nash
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Yay, glad you’re doing OK, @BE xx

Trent
1 month ago

So much grist for the mill, these two episodes, and dang it, I didn’t jot down half the semi-formed thoughts I had so now I’m going to forget…

Okay, so the first one is…there are steps in this opening dance between our fated couple that are intensely uncomfortable to watch, right? Or is that just me and the remnants of my relatively conservative upbringing? Regardless, I think it’s meant to be uncomfortable…and we just need to sit with our discomfort, wrestle with it for awhile, feel out its contours…or maybe I’m just talking to myself again.

What makes me uncomfortable is not really the age difference, which I think I’m more or less fine with (I’ll own up to at least a bit of a double standard here–I am more uncomfortable with age differences when the genders are flipped); what bothers me is the status differential (there’s a ton of class implications at play, obviously, which we’ll all be unpacking at length, I have no doubt)–but more than that, the power differential. She’s explicitly adopting the role of teacher, and they’re both acknowledging that, even if she isn’t actually in that position formally. I mean, lusting after teacher is a hoary old trope from way back (queue Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”), but it’s very much a transgressive trope. And then we get the TMI confession via the pseudonymous message board, where he unknowingly lets the object of his lustful worship (worshipful lust?) know that he’s a virgin. I mean, c’mon…raise your hand if a naughty little corner of your mind didn’t immediately pipe up with some version of “oh, so she’s going to be that kind of teacher as well…”

Look, I know this is ultimately supposed to be about holistic communion of the spirit between two music-worshiping soulmates, or something, and I’m not denying that interpretation; I just think it does a disservice to the complexity of layers that our narrative is bringing to the table not to acknowledge and peel back these layers. One of which, for me at least, is this discomfort. Some romantic dances you throw yourself into watching wholeheartedly, happy to be swept away in the flood of the characters’ deepening emotional entanglement. Others…you get dragged into, protesting every step of the way.

Anyway. Setting all that aside for the nonce. Another thing that popped into my head watching these episodes (and not for the first time in this whole kdrama odyssey) is just how thoroughly even the best kdramas stack the narrative deck by way of almost ludicrous levels of coincidence, arranged so that when they trigger, they appear natural and organic.

In this case, it’s Da-mi’s position as close friend of Sun-jae who also happens to be a low-level hair dresser in the very salon where Hye-won and her crew go to get their hair done. Is it believable? Yeah, okay, sure. At the same time, it’s extremely conveniently coincidental that she’s placed like that so that she can just out of the blue babble out her predicament to the only seemingly nice person-of-status in range just as she’s consumed with worry about her “boyfriend” (I agree that Sun-jae doesn’t see it that way, but regardless, they’re close, however he views it). And oh look! It turns out the nameless unfortunate she’s describing is clearly identifiable as that very same young prodigy that Hye-won has lost track of but can’t forget about…thus allowing her to skillfully swing into manipulative behind the scenes action to spring him and bring him back into orbit.

Is it artfully done on a narrative level? Of course; these sorts of narrative tricks usually are…but step back and it’s still..really stacking the deck. To be clear, I’m not mad at it, particularly. It’s just, wow. There are way more convenient coincidences in your average melodrama than there ever are in real life, it seems to me (I guess that’s one hallmark of a melodrama?).

I do feel bad for Da-mi (at least right now; she’s probably going to end up doing something terrible or destructive out of envy or jealousy or spite, isn’t she? Don’t answer that, if you’ve seen this!). But I always tend to feel bad for the nice side characters who are pining after one of the OTP but who never had a chance in the face of the invariably incandescent attraction between the central couple. I feel y’all’s pain, is what I’m saying.

Well, looks like we must gird up our loins, because matters are gonna get real… physical soon, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Yes, I think I do. 😆