Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I decided to have this backhug moment headlining our post today, because it’s such a significant moment, between Hye Won and Sun Jae. So many layers of intensity and emotion, in this one single screenshot. 🤩
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 – Book
In case you’d like to soak in the music as you read the episode notes, here’s Book, one of the key pieces that we hear, this set of episodes.
This one strikes me as the musical expression of the calm, sweetness and release that Hye Won and Sun Jae feel, when they are together, in that otherworldly, musical realm. I like this one for how soothing and yet, how expressive it is, of what feels like the poetry of the soul.
Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
Well. The affair begins this episode, so I thought I’d start with that, since that’s the key thing that lingers in my mind, now that I’ve finished watching the episode.
To be honest, I find the moment when Hye Won reaches for Sun Jae to kiss him, very weird. It’s her ultimate reaction to Sun Jae consistently refusing to play along with her claim that she doesn’t remember him kissing her in the garage.
Every time he gets a moment alone with Hye Won, it seems that Sun Jae needs to talk about this, and it’s the exact opposite of what Hye Won had expected, I think.
I feel like Hye Won had believed that Sun Jae would be cooperative enough to play along with her, even if he didn’t believe her. Instead, he just keeps laying his heart bare before her, in his honest, plaintive sort of way.
Brushing him aside – “You talk too much” – doesn’t seem to work either, since, afterwards, Sun Jae’s at it again, when he asks to play for her, then starts apologizing for Da Mi texting Joon Hyung, because of how he himself had felt, when Joon Hyung had called Hye Won by name, and his thoughts had wandered to how Hye Won shares a room with Joon Hyung.
It’s all quite pointed, and I rationalize that Hye Won’s run through her various options, of keeping Sun Jae at arm’s length.
Plus, there’s the thing where it’s clear to us as viewers, that even though Hye Won has been convincing herself to do the right thing, ie, keep Sun Jae at bay, her resolution crumbles quite steadily. Even though she doesn’t want to admit it, Sun Jae has got a foothold on her heart, and it’s not something that she can – or wants to – shake off.
That moment when she grabs him for the kiss, I feel like she’s finally giving in to her own feelings for him. She frames it as giving him a big scolding, but of course, her words make no sense; not to Sun Jae, and not to us, and I’m sure Hye Won knows this, too.
It’s clear that Sun Jae’s not listening to her words either, since he responds to her actions, while ignoring her words. Instead of being contrite or reflecting on himself like she says, he reaches out for a backhug; a desperate, intense backhug that she sinks into and responds to, which is where, hand on hand, their relationship irrefutably changes.
It’s an intense, impassioned moment; we can see from Hye Won’s expression that she’s basically undone, from the inside out; she’s essentially surrendering to the fervency of Sun Jae’s feelings, and the intensity of her own feelings in response to his.
What’s interesting about their connection is, upon this confirmed shift in their relationship, it isn’t a torrid bedroom scene that follows. Instead, he plays the piano, while she listens, and then they play, together.
It basically feels like they’ve entered into this affair, so that their souls can meet in this magical, other dimension, where the music takes them. It literally feels like this meeting of their souls, in this musical realm, is more precious, more intimate and more fulfilling to the both of them, than actual physical intimacy.
The thrilled hugs and euphoric laughter they share afterwards, feel like a celebratory afterthought, almost. Hye Won’s breathlessness, as she sighs in happy contentment, and as she tells Sun Jae, that that’s enough for the day, is reminiscent of an actual physical climax.
Notably, the thing that Sun Jae asks for, is more shared music – not more shared hugs or kisses. The skinship wasn’t the point; the point was to have a full mutual acknowledgment of the emotional and spiritual intimacy that they share, through their music.
Later, as Hye Won sinks into bed, Sun Jae continues to play, and in this moment, it feels like Sun Jae is continuing to reach out to Hye Won through his music, to allow her to drift off to sleep, while soaking in that magical realm of connection, even though there are literal walls between them.
This episode, I’m becoming cognizant of the fact that neither Hye Won nor Sun Jae is a traditionally “good” or “pure” sort of drama lead character. Hye Won is clearly involved in shady dealings while assisting Madam Han, and we see that she’s very much an active part of the admissions cover-up.
And it’s not like anyone’s twisting her arm, either. She chose to be a part of this, for the purpose of furthering her ambition.
And while Sun Jae is a pure soul when it comes to music, this episode, we see that, unlike what I’d assumed in earlier episodes, he does actually see Da Mi as his girlfriend.
When he talks about Da Mi with Hye Won, his protest isn’t, “She’s not my girlfriend,” but rather, “I haven’t slept with her.” That tells me that it’s not just Da Mi misunderstanding the situation; they are actually in a relationship. And somehow, I think I’d missed that – chosen not to register that – on my first watch.
And this makes Da Mi’s visit to Professor Kang’s residence land differently in my head, this time around. If Sun Jae does see Da Mi as his girlfriend, or at least, acknowledges that she really is his girlfriend, then his treatment of her is really uncool.
I mean, he mostly just wants her to leave, and tries to silence her when she starts bawling. I’m thinking that if he’s really not that into Da Mi (which he clearly isn’t), then what’s stopping him from just breaking up with her?
Combining that with Sun Jae’s stated desire not to ever get caught in his feelings for Hye Won, neither by Da Mi nor by Professor Kang, it does lend a much more clandestine quality to his feelings for Hye Won, where before, I’d chosen to simply see his feelings as his soul being drawn to Hye Won.
That is still true, certainly. It’s just.. less pure in my mind on this watch, and that makes things feel.. different.
Hye Won’s ambitious, materialistic reasons for sticking with Joon Hyung is reasonably well established, and I understand why she feels she needs to stay in this marriage. But with Sun Jae being so young and idealistic, I’d kinda expected different, from him..?
Of course, through it all, the fact that Hye Won and Sun Jae are impossibly drawn to each other, is clear to see. Past a certain point, it’s arguable that this thing between them has become a magnetic pull that cannot be reasoned away.
Neither of them can stop thinking of the other, it seems, and Hye Won even has that image of Sun Jae, getting hot ‘n heavy with Da Mi in bed, come unbidden to her mind. She’s jealous, and fascinated, and she can’t help it.
I do think that Sun Jae is right, that it’s safer all around, if he moves back to his own home. With both of their feelings raging like this, living under the same roof is really rather too.. dangerous.
This episode, things get more complicated and more involved in one, I feel like. Hye Won starts to grapple with this newly evolved relationship with Sun Jae, and I feel like she is torn between wanting to keep him at arm’s length, and wanting to draw him near to herself.
Hye Won clearly wants to spend time with Sun Jae, and yet, when she arrives at his home, she puts on this pretense of advising him on school, and how to set his sights on international piano competitions.
She had me going for a while, thinking that perhaps she’d changed her mind about her relationship with Sun Jae, and this was her way of drawing the line again, to something more professional.
But it soon becomes clear, that that’s not what she really wants. And so, I think that her real reason for talking like that, is to maintain her pride, a little bit. As a woman, she doesn’t want to be seen to be the one chasing down Sun Jae to his home.
And, as we see later in the episode, it bothers her to be an older woman who’s attracted to a younger man.
On hindsight, I feel that Hye Won’s just using the school and piano stuff as an excuse to see Sun Jae. She’s depending on Sun Jae to cut through her pretense, to maintain the intimacy of relationship that he’s secured, with her.
And he does not disappoint, in that he cuts through her strategy without much hesitation at all, “I think you’re trying too hard. Trying to act like an adult to me.” … “I’m one hundred percent serious about you. You don’t need to lie to me.”
She still tries to protest, telling him that he shouldn’t be with her, for his mother’s sake. But as always, Hye Won can’t ever say no to Sun Jae when he offers to let her listen to his music, and it’s his music that turns Hye Won around, so that instead of pushing him away, she’s tearfully, joyfully offering him a hug.
How significant, though, that Sun Jae hesitates, before he turns the dynamic around, and tells her, “I will give you a hug.”
What an extra layer of implication, though, when we realize that Joon Hyung’s seen all of this, while standing on the other side of the apartment door. Eep. But I’ll talk about that a bit later.
It’s so interesting to me, that even though Sun Jae is much younger than Hye Won, he is very clear on certain things, like how he wants to be the man in this relationship, even though she’s the one setting the limits and boundaries.
He doesn’t want to receive a hug from her like a mother to a child; he wants to hold her, as a man holds a woman. Augh. It’s really quite intoxicating, I have to admit.
The way Hye Won gasps in Sun Jae’s arms, so quietly and yet so tearfully, speaks volumes about how parched her soul must be, from being starved of true affection, for so long. She cannot help but return the embrace, even as Sun Jae envelops her with tearful wonder and intensity.
It feels like this is where Hye Won and Sun Jae cross a milestone in their relationship, because it’s after this, that there’s a sense of freedom, in their interactions.
When Sun Jae takes Hye Won home, with her riding pillion on the scooter that he borrows from his landlady, it feels like a carefree, fun, liberating moment for them, where they’re in their own happy bubble, completely cut off from the expectations of others, or the constraints of social expectation. It almost feels like they’re suspended in time, for a while.
Even though we hear Hye Won tell Sun Jae not to text or call her; that she’ll be the one to do that, we see that she does receive texts from him. This means that she had reached out to him first, then, because I doubt Sun Jae would disobey her, since he’s so intent on making her happy.
The way Hye Won sleeps while holding her phone close to her, tells me that these messages from Sun Jae are more precious to her than she’d like to let on.
And the way she sits by the windowsill the next morning, just to catch a glimpse of Sun Jae as he jogs past her window, says a lot too. Just that glimpse of him brings her so much joy.
I also love the detail that we find out this episode, that Hye Won had purchased Sun Jae’s old piano, when he’d sold it. And now, she restores it completely for him, so that he’ll be able to practice properly, but on a piano that holds a great deal of meaning for him.
That is such a precious gift, honestly. It tells me that even at the point when Sun Jae had decided to give up his piano, she knew what it meant to him, and she couldn’t let him risk losing that precious piano and all of its memories, forever.
I love that she’d thought of that. It shows just how much she understands Sun Jae.
I love that Sun Jae appreciates the gift so much, and immediately sends her a recording of himself playing the newly restored piano. And I love that Hye Won derives so much visible joy, from listening. I feel like with this exchange, they’ve given a lifeline of sorts, to each other.
She’s given him the gift of his piano back, along with all of its irreplaceable associated memories, and he’s now giving her the sound of his music, which nourishes her soul.
It feels like via his music, she gets to escape her suffocating life, and actually breathe.
On that note, I just wanted to say that I find Hye Won’s relationship with Joon Hyung rather curious, because by all accounts, their marriage is a business arrangement.
And yet, even though there isn’t a real sense of romantic relationship between them, they do appear to keep up the pretense of one, at least, with Joon Hyung expecting gentleness, understanding and tenderness from his wife, and Hye Won feeling that she needs to hide her bond with Sun Jae from him.
It’s intriguing to me, and I conclude that to Joon Hyung, this is more a matter of pride than anything else.
He wants Hye Won’s support, understanding and loyalty, not because he loves her and wants her to love him back; it’s to feed his pride, that he has a good wife, and deserves her unwavering loyalty.
Therefore, this episode, when he realizes that Sun Jae and Hye Won have Something going on, it’s his pride that is hurt, more than anything else. And I think that’s why he reacts the way he does.
He doesn’t confront Hye Won about it, but instead works to assert himself in other ways, like in how he tells Sun Jae that he’s the one who’d instructed Hye Won to buy Sun Jae’s old piano and restore it.
This episode, we also see that Da Mi isn’t one to be messed with. She’s been so smitten with Sun Jae, and so smiley with Hye Won, that I’m rather startled at how legitimately scary she can be.
The way she threatens Madam Baek’s daughter, is so full of thug swag, that I can see why Hye Won suddenly looks worried. After all, if Da Mi ever finds out that Hye Won’s seeing Sun Jae, she could turn that wrath on Hye Won too, no?
I empathize with Hye Won, when she expresses tearful regret over dinner, that she should have spent her youth loving, rather than planning to claw her way to a better, more successful future.
I feel that this is definitely triggered by her observations of Da Mi. Hye Won definitely sees Da Mi as romantic competition, and she can’t help but compare herself with Da Mi. And although Hye Won is herself a beautiful woman, she can’t help but feel old and inadequate, when contrasted with Da Mi’s youth.
And what a horrible position to be put in, where Hye Won gets attacked by Young Woo, for daring to ask for authority over her work, if she’s to help Young Woo with her business. My gosh, the way Young Woo attacks her is nothing short of lethal, and it’s just so horrible that Hye Won should be subjected to this kind of indignity, in the name of work. UGH.
I can see why Hye Won would think to reach out to Sun Jae, in a time like this, when she feels her lowest. Sun Jae’s become a healing presence in her life, and that’s probably what Hye Won wants and needs, at least for a while, after being treated like trash.