Open Thread: Secret Love Affair Episodes 9 & 10

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Can you believe we’re already in the second half of our story? I decided to have this scene headlining our post today, because this feels like such a rare moment of unguarded, carefree joy, between Hye Won and Sun Jae.

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 – Warm Heart

In case you’d like to soak in the music as you read the episode notes, here’s Warm Heart, which features rather prominently, this set of episodes. I love how unhurried, soothing, and comforting it feels.

Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

My thoughts

Episode 9

With the consummation of the main relationship last episode, it feels like we are in new territory, this episode.

The thing that I notice most, is the shift in Hye Won. Prior to the consummation, while she’d been wrestling with herself, she had channeled all that tension into how she’d spoken to and treated Sun Jae, and that had come across as harsh and cruel. Now, however, that release, which we’d felt last episode, seems to have an enduring sort of effect.

Even though Hye Won leaves hurriedly in the dawn hours without saying goodbye to Sun Jae, the tone of her text message, which she sends to him while in the taxi on the way to work, is so open, and so vulnerable.

It feels like a revelation, that such a bare-hearted, tender sort of musing could come from Hye Won, who’s been so evasive and controlled, for much of the time we’ve known her.

“I, Oh Hye Won, am going to work. This is my personal number. Save it under some other name. I like your place. Although last night, I was scared to go in alone. It was dangerous, steep… and slippery from the rain. ‘Should I walk back down?’

That question came up on every step. But even at that moment, I thought that I shouldn’t fall. I’d have to come up with lies if I broke my legs. Which made me be as cautious as possible.

I walked up the stairs and… got through the dark and narrow corridor. It was nice to know… that I would be at your place once I got through there. I turned on the lights and almost cried. Now this is a home.

This is what home should be. I’m normally always standing. And sometimes I sleep with my heels on. I felt as if that place existed solely for me. And I was thankful to your mother. So I took the liberty of walking about.

But because no one should know about this, I found myself walking on tippy toes, before I realized it. Yes, I’m very used to lying… but I couldn’t make you do the same. I had thoughts of me being more careful. But I want you to be careful too. Is this childish?

Oh yeah, I ate your cup ramen. I didn’t want to wake you up, so I ate on the rooftop. I can’t remember the last time I had something that tasted so good. I remember what you said.

Practicing until the shoulders are sore and enjoying Rachmaninoff and Paganini to the end. Loving them the best. I realized what that means. Isn’t my life so strange? So now I… don’t dare to say that I love you and your house. But only that… I will learn from you.

So Sun Jae… even if I don’t get it until the end… Smart Sun Jae… Even if people say that this is an affair and that it’s bad for you… a sin. Hide wisely and protect yourself. I will take the filth. That’s my specialty.”

There’s so much here, which I feel continues to play out in the rest of the episode.

For a start, how interesting is it, that Sun Jae saves Hye Won as WHO, on his phone. In the context of the scene, it feels like Show is pointing at this message, and telling us that the answer to the question, “WHO is Hye Won?,” has its beginnings here.

I’m quite struck by the idea that Hye Won had walked through the slippery darkness, with the warmth of Sun Jae’s abode, as the prize.

That feels like a metaphor right there, for how Hye Won’s been walking in the filth of power and corruption, but finds relief and safety in the welcoming homeliness of Sun Jae.

At the same time, Hye Won ends her message – which Sun Jae correctly labels the confession of her life – by expressing her desire to protect Sun Jae.

This feels like a complete turnaround from her adversarial stance last set of episodes, where she’d been in attack mode, more than anything. Yet, here, and now, she wants to protect Sun Jae with her own self. She’d rather take on more filth, in order to preserve his purity.

Another thing that leaves a deep impression on me, is how Hye Won says that she’d almost cried, entering Sun Jae’s home. This really drives home how she doesn’t feel at ease the rest of time, even in her own home.

She says that she’s used to lying, and that hits home more than ever, when she says that she couldn’t afford to fall, because if she’d broken her legs, she’d need to lie about it.

It’s so telling, isn’t it, that her first concern about falling, isn’t that she might break her legs per se, but that she’d have to find a suitable cover story for how she’d broken them. It’s becoming clearer and clearer, just how much of a finely tuned machine of lies Hye Won’s life really is.

How significant, that Hye Won says in this message, that she will learn from Sun Jae, how to love him. Hye Won might be more experienced and wise in many things, but when it comes to the heart, Sun Jae is way more tuned in to his heart and how to love out of it, than Hye Won.

At the same time, I feel that it’s a sign of growth in itself, that Hye Won’s able to recognize and articulate this.

Another big piece that I’m taking away from this episode, is the need to hide, that now looms over Hye Won and Sun Jae, but over Hye Won especially.

It feels like there are eyes and ears everywhere, and as she invests her heart and hence starts to lose some of the control that comes from coldness and distance, people around her starting to pick up on her attachment to Sun Jae.

The way Hye Won jumps to Sun Jae’s defense, when Madam Han suggests eyelid surgery for Sun Jae, is enough to clue in both Madam Han and Hye Won’s friend Secretary Wang.

The fact that neither of them actually says anything to Hye Won, even after clocking her protectiveness of Sun Jae, and making their own conclusions about it, is actually rather worrying.

This means that they’ve become aware of Hye Won’s connection to Sun Jae, while Hye Won is unaware that they’ve noticed anything. I feel like that puts Hye Won at an immediate disadvantage, in this dog-eat-dog world.

The other thing that is starting to worry me, is the fact that Joon Hyung’s being pushed into an uncomfortable corner. Certainly, this isn’t directly Hye Won’s doing, but I do believe that Madam Han’s idea, of putting Hye Won in charge of Sun Jae, is due to her observation of Hye Won’s partiality towards Sun Jae.

With Joon Hyung basically forced to let go of Sun Jae, against his wishes, I feel like his resentment towards Hye Won and Sun Jae will only grow stronger – and that can’t be a good thing.

In the scene where Sun Jae asks for the security cameras to be switched off in the practice room, my subs translate what he says as, “I don’t have strength to fight the filth.”

I think a more accurate translation would be, “I don’t have the power to fight the filth,” which has a different connotation entirely. It’s not that he doesn’t have the strength or will to; he recognizes that this is a lot of power play, and he knows that he has no leverage.

At first, I was rather thrown by Hye Won’s hearty laugh in response to Sun Jae calling her text the confession of her life, and their relationship, an affair, but eventually, as she settles down, and the laugh takes on more bitter-sounding tones, it becomes clear that Hye Won isn’t disagreeing with Sun Jae after all.

In fact, she adds on to what he says, by saying that she can’t even buy nice clothes for him, because people would think that she’d bought him.

This is the bitter reality of their current context; he can’t love her openly, and neither can she love him openly.

It’s an unpleasant truth that frames the sincerity of their hearts, and that’s sad, because wouldn’t it be nice, to love someone and actually have the freedom to revel in that love, without fear of judgment?

I find it interesting, that when Sun Jae asks to take Hye Won on a quick ride on the motorbike, she demurs at first, but rather quickly ends up not only taking that ride, but asking to go to his place, as well.

It feels like Hye Won’s slowly but surely losing the willpower to keep a distance from Sun Jae, that she’s even willing to do something as risky as this.

How notable, that upon entering the house, even though it’s Hye Won who had suggested the rendezvous, it’s Sun Jae who takes control of the situation, and reaches first, to kiss and embrace Hye Won.

This is so in line with what he’d said, when she’d first offered to hug him. He wants to be the man in the relationship, and it’s playing out so naturally, in this moment of intimacy.

Afterwards, as they sit together on the roof and Sun Jae asks what Hye Won is thinking, my subs translate her answer as, “Fling,” but I think a more accurate translation is, “Habit.”

That changes the whole vibe of the following conversation, doesn’t it, where Sun Jae asks if she’s worried that he’ll become one (a habit), and Hye Won answers that she’s afraid that she will become one.

I feel bad for Hye Won, that her happy glow so quickly turns into a reason for her to hide, in such an undignified manner, in the storeroom on the roof. I think that’s the biggest downer, on a new relationship; the fact that you want to celebrate, but have to hide, instead.

This episode, Sun Jae puts to rest our questions about where he sees Da Mi, when he comes out and tells her that he doesn’t see her as a woman. That’s the literal translation, though my subs say that he doesn’t see her as his girlfriend.

How interesting, that even though he’s never regarded Da Mi as a woman, he’d still referred to her as his girlfriend to Hye Won. That’s a lot of loyalty to show Da Mi, when he’s talking to his goddess, wouldn’t you say?

Da Mi takes it reasonably well in front of Sun Jae, but the fact that she makes it a point to formally introduce herself to Hye Won at the spa, and still refers to Sun Jae as her boyfriend, while asking Hye Won to take good care of him, is definitely a territorial move.

There’s a definite bite to her smile, and that does make me a little nervous, for Hye Won. After all, we’ve agreed that Da Mi is very likely pretty darn scary, when she feels betrayed. 😬

Episode 10

Reality is starting to bear down on Hye Won and Sun Jae, and I feel like this screenshot encapsulates it really well.

Because of the new arrangement, Hye Won and Sun Jae are licensed to spend a lot more time together, but their chemistry is starting to leak in unexpected places, and catching the notice of the people around them.

Alongside this, Joon Hyung’s position continues to grow increasingly uncomfortable, as he already knows that there’s Something going on between Hye Won and Sun Jae, and yet, he feels compelled to keep up pretenses, not just because he needs them both, but also, for the sake of his reputation.

From what we’ve been shown, Joon Hyung’s felt like a fake for a long time, and has been longing to prove himself, with his own protégé.

The way the situation is playing out, is very unfortunate for Joon Hyung, because he needs Sun Jae for the sake of his reputation, but in hanging on to Sun Jae when it’s really Hye Won who’s teaching and guiding Sun Jae, Joon Hyung only ends up feeling even more like a fake.

Add on the nugget of information we get last episode, where Show indicates, via Hye Won’s phone call to the doctor, that Joon Hyung is going through andropause (aka male menopause), and things get even more delicate.

If this is true, then Joon Hyung would feel even more moody than average, and therefore it’s no surprise that by the time we reach the end of the episode, he’s flinging a wine glass at the wall in frustration.

Right now, I feel like Joon Hyung is a ticking time bomb, and Hye Won’s current approach, of acting like nothing’s happened, isn’t going to keep the status quo for long.

Sun Jae’s concert goes excellently, and I would just like to say that I’m more impressed than ever, at how Yoo Ah In manages the concert scenes. I mean, it really isn’t even a question of whether he’s playing for himself anymore. I’m sure there are some parts that he plays, and then some parts that he doesn’t.

But the fact is, the synchronization of Sun Jae’s movements with the music is faultless. I could completely believe that this was Sun Jae, performing on stage, from the depths of his soul, and I found it utterly spellbinding.

Part of what makes it spellbinding, is watching Hye Won’s heartfelt response to Sun Jae’s performance.

Just like when she’d first listened to him play in the piano room in her house, his music brings her to tears.

In fact, I’d never noticed it on my first watch, but when Hye Won leaves the auditorium, her legs are visibly wobbly. Sun Jae’s playing has such a real and tangible effect on Hye Won, that it’s quite mesmerizing to see.

Plus, there’s the way he searches for her, in the audience, for the simple reason that he needs to. He needs to see her, and know that she’s right there with him, in order to keep playing his best. It feels poetic, that they affect each other in such deep ways.

It hadn’t occurred to me on my first watch, but Hye Won needing to lie down, after Sun Jae’s performance, isn’t so much because she’s tired from all the concert-related arrangements; it’s because his music has affected her in such a tangible way, that it literally makes her breathless and weak.

That’s why she needs to lie down, to just be, and recover, for a bit.

It doesn’t surprise me at all, that Sun Jae instinctively knows where to find her, even though she hasn’t told anyone where she’ll be. It also doesn’t surprise me, that Sun Jae is quick to tell Hye Won that he couldn’t help looking for her, in that moment, in the auditorium.

What does surprise me, a little, is how open Hye Won is, in telling Sun Jae how she’d felt, listening to him play; that she’d hardly been able to breathe. That’s so very vulnerable of her.

The ease and comfort of their skinship, as they sit together and watch the recording of the concert, feels telling. They’ve grown even closer now, than they’d been before, and it honestly looks so natural and instinctual, to them both.

Sun Jae taking Hye Won to the back of the auditorium, and showing her where he’d first seen her, as someone from another world, feels like a significant moment, because that’s the first time he’d laid eyes on her, and his soul had stirred, for her.

It also feels significant, that in this space, where he’d been an outsider, he’s now holding her in his arms, and driving their intimacy forward.

At the same time, it’s rather nerve-wracking to watch Joon Hyung search for them, all the while. Like I mentioned earlier, this all feels like a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any time.

I feel like if Young Woo hadn’t called Joon Hyung with such urgency, to tell him to find Hye Won because of the prosecutors, perhaps Joon Hyung would have been able to carry on with his charade for a little longer.

However, the emergency forces him to confront the situation at hand. The fact that he shouts out the message to Hye Won in that auditorium, is an acknowledgment that he knows that she’s there, with Sun Jae.

With this, he can’t pretend anymore, and again, that’s why he smashes that wine glass at the tail end of the episode.

What an abrupt shift in gears, this episode, as Hye Won rushes to the Chairman’s residence to tend to the emergency. What strikes me about this scene, is not so much what goes on inside the house, but what goes on outside.

We eventually see that Sun Jae has followed Hye Won to the Chairman’s house, and we see him watching from a distance, from behind a streetlamp.

This echoes so strongly, the first time he’d spied Hye Won from behind that stage curtain, that I feel it can’t be a coincidence.

In this moment, I feel that Show is demonstrating to us, that despite what has developed between Hye Won and Sun Jae, he is still an outsider looking into her world from a distance.

With so much going on, and the walls seeming to close in on her, slowly but surely, it’s no wonder Hye Won looks troubled.

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1 year ago

I am watching this series for the nth time now and chanced upon your site. I am loving all of your insights, thank you for sharing them.

All this time, I’ve been wondering why Seon Jae would hide Hye Won under the name WHO until I realized something while watching him type it on his phone this time around. Isn’t it also Oh Hye Won’s initials, spelled backwards? Just a thought 😊

1 year ago
Reply to  Christine

Brilliant catch!

2 years ago

KFG, your recap and insight on these two episodes are perfect done so thank you very much.

I love that this show made me think to tease out the nuances so that on each watch, I discover different things. Joon Hyung as betrayed husband should elicit some compassion from me. But the character is just so completely selfish. I agree that he must have felt like a fake because he is a fake and a leech. His respectability is due to him being Mr. Oh Hye Won. But he behaves as if he is entitled to his professorship and all the perks it entails. Look at his contemptuous treatment of his own students (shown in an earlier episode) and how he treats his assistant. He whines to his wife that his lack of status is because he doesn’t have a star student. Just with that, it shows he knows he needs a crutch to advance and either does not have the talent or the work ethic to just strive to be better all these years. If HW and SJ’s piano duets are a sub for sex (look at the blissful expressions on the faces of OHW and SJ), Joon Hyung watching matter of factly seems like the show telling us that he is perfectly fine with it as long as it serves his purpose.

One thing I wondered is when Sun Jae played that Brahms Intermezzo as his encore, he said in the voice over that it is his love letter to Hye Won and that she will know when she hears it. Given that this is a music university, didn’t he just announce his feeling to everyone (who suspects) as the history of that piece would have been understood by all? Kim Hee Ae was wow in that scene where she staggered out of the control room. And really that couch scene of them listening to the recording of the concert is one of my favorites. It is a long scene with no words. But the acting is so natural and they seem totally in love and aware and magnetized to each other. Again, the music editing of this scene is just exquisite and timed perfectly. This show really made me a fan of both of these wonderful actors.

eda harris
eda harris
2 years ago
Reply to  Lane

lane, i completely agree with you on joon hyung, as for the life of me i can not find an ounce of sympathy for that so called man but not a man, a human with no self-respect or respect for others, with an emotional intelligence of below zero… gosh, how could hw live with him and tolerate him? were they ever intimate, close on any level, share their lives in any way except sharing the living accommodations?
and i do not think that he really cares which bed his wife would share as long as he does not have to share his (or so he thinks as his) prime catch – sj’s talent with anybody else, in order to climb to his dream-glory. and if there is any concern about hw being with another male, it is only because nobody is entitled to his PROPERTY, the macho ego is fragile, in most cases, especially in korea, or that is the impression that i am getting.

2 years ago
Reply to  eda harris

Male fragility strikes again.

2 years ago

Just to add that I fully appreciated the tension in this pair of episodes!! I had to watch them in segments as it was almost unbearable, especially when Joong Hyung is searching through the centre. Beautifully done!

eda harris
eda harris
2 years ago

i finally convinced my husband to watch SLA (he’s not a drama watcher, no patience for multiple episodes plus i made a mistake of introducing him to the first drama with 70 episodes, and although he liked it, he had enough). but what i really wanted to say, is that now when he’s watching, every time i pass by the tv and take a pick, i almost freeze, can’t move, watch the moment and feel like i am totally being swept of my feet again, like an avalanche of emotions hits me. this is quite bizarre, as i have watched this in it’s entirety twice and many episodes more than that. i know the outcome, i know it all, and yet it feels like i am just seeing it for the first time, as the emotions are so fresh, so raw, so unbelievably powerful and overwhelming, shattering all my senses. i believe, no, i know, this drama will stay with me for a very long time. sometimes there are dramas that i do not want them to end, i just want to continue living with it and in it, but this one… is truly special. i felt like i had to share it with you.
so now episodes 9 and 10. at the very opening, hae won is gingerly and fearfully walking up the dirty, slippery stairs in almost complete darkness to sj’s place. the dirty mildewed walls around her, the boxes, wires, junk she has to pass through to reach sj’s little world, she’s probably never been in such a place or did not even imagine that it can exist… and yet… something new, something unexplainable yet within her pushes her to overcome her fear, to persevere, go on, SHE CAN NOT GIVE UP. if she goes through all this scary obstructions, something in her tells her that she will reach sh’s place, a some sort of refuge, a home, regardless of how poor it really is. for her it is warm and inviting, it is almost sacred, as she tip-toes around when she finally enters his home. if she can only overcome her fear and all the obstacles on the slippery road to sj, it will be some sort of victory over her own self and society’s. i feel that the drama presented this whole scene as an allegory to where this is going and what she will have to overcome. but we hear from her that she feels that she is solely allowed to be in his space – permission granted, and so we can have hope that she will have the courage to go to the very end, the “warm home”.
the next important scene is where sj is finally putting it as it is and was for him always for da-mi. they are not romantically involved in any way, she is NOT a woman for him, and he hopes she knew it. she admits and confirms she did know and does. so, finally we can let sj off the hook (although i never had him ON the hook), it is solely da-mi that tried to force herself on sj, although she knows he is not sharing her feelings at all. but again she has the nerve to tell him that she will not accept him being with another woman. really, is he her property, even after she admits that this whole dream of becoming sj’s wife is just that – her fantasy. that is why i really do not like this character, and did not like her from the beginning, i could just sense her “old gangster” personality.
the last scene (although there are many, too many), that i would like to mention is the one after sj’s performance, everybody is at the party, and hw and sj are in the office on the sofa reviewing his performance. they hold hands watching him play on the screen, they laugh at places, they get emotional at other, they drown in the sounds of music, it is not a sexy racy connection, rather two very close friends, all exterior issues erased right now – the age, the standing in the society, the economical status, the pending “adultery”- there is only the music and two soul mates connecting on the most intimate, deepest level. i love this scene, it says soooooooo much.

2 years ago

A couple other thoughts about the SeoHan cheobol.
First the patriarchal structure. Although we see the whole through Hye Won’s pov, and that mostly through her roles as the long time personal assistant to Young Woo, as “unofficially” bookkeeper/investment counselor/fixer to Lily Han, and as Director of the Art Institute, front for Chairman Seo’s huge money laundering cover for whatever illegal shenanigans he is pulling off, not to mention the side profits the family is skimming off the top from its phony admissions scamming. We are not privy to what illegal business the Chairman and all those men in black seated on barstools at Hannam Dong are up to; we only know that he is the one ultimately calling the shots, the source of the money by which Young Woo can fool around, playing at business, by which Sung Sook can make her killing in stocks, and Hye Won can have her job with its big props of keeping her in the music game, scouting and at least initially mentoring young talent.
Then we also see the way powerful women angle around the limitations of such patriarchy, Young Woo’s plaintive cajole, Sung Sook’s ruthless cunning and conniving. We note how Hye Won who is likely the sharpest knife in the drawer at SeoHan has to maneuver around and through everyone, their individual violence, their greed and lust for power in the cheobol hierarchy, just to make it through each day.
These are very wealthy people, upper class, and yet, they are more coarse as a result of their moneyed privilege, than they are genteel. Of Seon Jae’s group only Da Mi has a similar kind of salt in her, street kid and former number two in a nasty gang, albeit she may be able to put some young rich woman in her place, even she knows characters such as Sung Sook are in another world altogether. While from a lower class Seon Jae and his mother, and his friend, Jang Ho–despite Jang Ho’s Justinian ambitions and admiration for the trappings of wealth, all bring a simple goodness and honesty to their relations with others, an almost innate moral goodness utterly lacking among the SeoHan family.
Whether this picture derives from a typical treatment in sageuks, their depiction of the dog eat dog court life of the past in which family members do not shrink at killing other family members, and women are cloistered but nonetheless within that vie themselves in the same kind of petty way we see going on between Young Woo and Sung Sook, or it is drawn from makjang drama styles, satisfying the lurid taste of working class audiences, or from a real life understanding of these corrupt families who play such a powerful role in Korean society, or all three, I have no real idea.
But given how recent the admissions scandals occurred in the United States, how Sky Castle made an entire show based on such, how instead of the social cruelty by which such illegal operations likely make their money, focusing instead with how they go about the white collar crime of covering it up with Institutes seemingly providing a common benefit, ridiculous shell businesses, and insider trading stock options, not to mention highlighting how the cruelty shows up in the domestic relations of the family itself, all done in the context of this passionate love story, almost completely understated except in its vital catalytic function moving the plot forward, all this too, contributes to my admiration for the artistry with which SLA as a serial television entertainment is presented.

2 years ago

To begin: in some earlier posts there was some discussion of Yoo Ah In perhaps going a bit over the top with his performance in this. Of course, his concert performance scene has been the scene that seems to have been the most written about by critics, for its excellence, for its breathtaking realism, and given the melodramatics of concert pianists, especially those doting on Pagininni and Rachmaninoff, as K points out, he simply nailed it! I have mentioned earlier that in one interview with Yoo when asked about it, he replied that he thought of those scenes in the same light as action scenes in sageuks for which he was asked to display a similar kind of expertise at derring do. And then he went on that his field of expertise was acting. And it was not the musicianship he learned from playing the piano, although that helped, but rather that he was serious about enacting his part.

For me, however, the scene in which he is reading the text Hye Won sends him, feeling each word, each phrase, each sentence, the moment by moment changes written across his unwashed, almost puffy with innocence, face, the way a nineteen or twenty year old sensitive, intense young man would read such on the morning following not only their first love making, but his, just perfectly done.

For which the counterpart, remembering Seon Jae’s encore he told her was his letter to her, as she hears it echoing through the empty hall outside the concert auditorium, Hye Won staggers her way along, relieved, elated, moved to her core (as we find out in other scenes, her style of playing, her interpretations of music and piano, uncannily like his), Kim Hee Ae, the master of facial expression acting putting on a full bodied physical bit of work, to enact such a clumsy careening like that in high heels, one can almost feel the strain on each heel near to breaking–you would think she might have been a dancer, let alone in earlier scenes where Kim even demonstrates how it must look for someone playing the piano with consummate skill and a long injured hand shuttering the limits upon that skill.

Oh and there is one addendum to last week’s posts. Yes the love scene was done with such reticience, but if that was simply because of censorship what we can say about the two of them rolling around on the ground together back stage while Kang is searching them out?

But I wish to talk about the cheobol subplot here and where we are at, especially vis a vis Hye Won, but also Seon Jae as he walks all the way to Hannam Dong. if we look at the show from a different lens, rather as pair of character studies of our ost, then what is happening on the periphery, now rapidly moving toward the center of our drama, takes on a greater importance. If we see Hye Won as someone involved with these people for decades now, and just now becoming aware of how morally corrupt she has become because of her encounter with the very pure, very innocent Seon Jae, and if we see this as a bilungsroman of the young artist who is finding his flowering as an artist, an artist among artists, an artist, perhaps head and shoulders beyond other artists the result of the sordid goings on put into play by a woman, his first real love, he had considered a goddess, and all that might imply, then, perhaps, this story takes on even greater meaning than the obvious one about the nature of love, art, what constitutes a life worth living, and the questions of transgression and the deadening limits of cultural and social norms and mores.

All of a sudden, the show’s criminal activity is being brought into legal light. Some one or many can go to prison. What is more, one is hard pressed not to notice that there must be some relationship between the power plays going on among the principals bringing this to a head. Why, for example, are the South Korean prosecutorial offices after what must have been already a couple decades of shenanigans, not to mention money laundering, tax evasion, and bank fraud, or fraudulent school admissions, is this little investment in Young Woo’s clothing line something that might rise to the surface so that the hard eye of the law has taken notice? Is this about Young Woo’s husband, Kim Im Kyun (to whom we are just briefly introduced in the tenth episode already, having only heard him before as having been brought into the family for his legal influence and wheeler dealer among the cognoscenti status) trying to purchase more power, perhaps resentful that Young Woo is so profligate she cannot be even considered safe to see her own children of her own ongoing legal marriage, perhaps simply armed with the leverage he can bring to bear…as Chairman Seo is dressed and off to a stint in the clink…on the family finances from such insider knowledge as he perforce must have as Young Woo’s husband, especially given her, shall we say gift of gab? And vis a vis Hye Won, who appears to be the family fixer, consigliere, and book keeper with two sets of books, thus someone holding onto a great deal of power withing the cheobol, not to mention his wife, could there possibly be a rivalry setting up between the two of them, a rivalry Hye Won might not have previously recovered.

Or is this a bit of Lily Han’s hand in the making. It is certainly clear that she is doing her best to set up Hye Won vis a vis Seon Jae. Impossible to miss it, and certainly Hye Won is on alert, while at the same time feeling the pressure of Lily Han’s fingers on this raw and tender wound, making the stakes of her feeling for him and her own self knowledge even more conflicting, and seriously more dangerous. Has Sung Sook really forgiven her over the business with the other woman? Do your really think she really thinks Hye Won was in the dark about all that, let alone not having been her husband’s agent in the affair (just as she forces Hye Won to be her agent in ending it)? And who is it having seen Lily stuff her step daughter’s face in a toilet or her swift kidney punch to her husband’s unkind unkidneys that would be so naive as to think she might not file that away for later, with the knife edge of are you disappointed with “vice’ ceo at Hye Won’s neck…vice indeed. Or is this also just a squeeze in which Hye Won as the single non member of the family finds herself stuck between Sung Sook and Young Woo, Sung Sook and Chairman Seo, Chairman Seo maneuvering between his women with his own axe to grind, or all of them and lawyer Kim combined.

In any case, the water is hot, the cooked books in Hye Won’s possession, who do you think will after 25 years be the most likely fall guy in all this, who do you think Hye Won thinks will be? What are the stakes then for Seon Jae’s success, something she is more invested in than even his love? And what can this possibly mean for Seon Jae, his love of Hye Won, and the dawning realization that her love, his success are products of this corrupt and very dangerous world. This boy/man who somehow just a couple years back had plucked a girl out of gang life and never had the wherewithal before that moment to bring himself to tell her that her feelings for him moved by her gratitude were not reciprocated in anything other than the same kind of neighborhood friendship he had for his pal, Jang Ho?

We know, whatever we think about it, for this show Hye Won and Seon Jae are fated lovers who do consummate that love, albeit we do not yet know what that means for each in light of the societal norms they are bound to go up against. But when we consider this element of the show’s story, an element I must admit I paid less attention to on my first watch than the obvious story of forbidden love and the artistic life, I think it will become increasingly important to see how the love between Hye Won and Seon Jae in the forge of the SeoHan cheobol corruption and its legal upshot informs the growth and development of our two main characters separately as well as together.

2 years ago
Reply to  BE

Sorry character studies of our otp–ah the alphabet soup of my old man mind!

2 years ago

Perfectly done K. Thanks so much, especially your comments on Da Mi and Joon Hyung, but of course also for your sensitive insights of our otp, who, it must be reprated are being enacted by what must be considered 2 of the greatest performances in the history of K Drama . I will chime in tomorrow morning when my thoughts coalesce vis a vis the “2ndary plot,” which it strikes me has been there throughout and at this point might be more significant, and more important to disentangle a bit or at least speculate upon, especially vis a bis Hye Won than it may have appeared up till now.

2 years ago

@KFG – I have had a hard time the second watch of this Show only because it is as intense as the first time! Your notes are helping me so much understand the Journey the Show has been taking us on all this time. And finally, for some reason in these set of notes something finally clicked for me. I have been holding my breath the entire time for so many reasons as I watch this Show; Noona Romance with quite a large age gap; Teacher Student Romance, Souls Connecting, An Affair being discovered, lives being ruined left and right, lives being manipulated left and right, Hopes being shattered, Hopes being built up, Dreams almost within reach almost out of reach…….so much to unpack. And then, add the layers of the gorgeous score and the incredible performances by both Leads just so much to take in to process.

While I have not liked Joon Hyung from the very beginning as a character, part of me cringes as so much transpires behind his back by everyone not only his wife. He seems to be the butt of everyone’s joke or he last to know. And thats not a nice play to be even if he has put himself there with his actions and his behavior.

Maybe after the Group watch finishes I can watch this again after reading all your notes/comments. For now, I am loving your notes 🙂

2 years ago

Love revisiting the episodes in these threads. Wish I had time to write a longer post but I’m busy making trashy American TV. lol

I started watching D.P. last night, based on what I read about here on your blog. It gave me flashbacks to my own days in U.S. Army boot camp. Hopefully I’ll have a minute to post something in the discussion on that show.