Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I had to have this iconic scene headline our post today; it’s such a rare moment of respite, for 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 – Book
In case you’d like to soak in the music as you read the episode notes, here’s Book again, which I feel features rather prominently, this set of episodes.
Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
At this point in our story, Hye Won and Sun Jae are coming to a moment of reckoning, and it’s hard to watch. It feels like the entire world is closing down on them, while they are both trapped, in their own corners, separated from each other.
This episode, the thing that I feel the most keenly, is Sun Jae’s loss of innocence, because of his relationship with Hye Won. In Sun Jae’s opening voiceover alone, as he ponders everything, while sitting at the window in his home, the sense of plaintive helplessness that he feels, is so clear:
“I never thought that my window was small up until now. But, it looks really small today. There’s so much that I don’t know. You were bowing to a car in the middle of a night. But I could only hide and watch. A big house with high walls. People in suits. I was scared because I had never seen anything like it.”
He sounds so young in this voiceover, doesn’t he? It reminds me all over again, that Sun Jae’s only 19, and completely inexperienced in the ways of the world; at least, the ways of the world in which Hye Won lives. And while his relationship with Hye Won has brought him a great deal of joy in its own way, the price – of his innocence – seems quite high, to my eyes.
It’s a little startling, that this episode, we realize that everyone around Hye Won either already knows about her relationship with Sun Jae, or has deep suspicions to that effect. The thing is, up to this point, no one’s really confronted Hye Won in the traditional sense of the word. Everyone’s just made their observations, and adjusted their approach accordingly.
It feels like quietly, while Hye Won wasn’t looking, the entire world’s turned against her and is targeting her relationship with Sun Jae. It’s quite unsettling to witness, honestly.
Of course, Professor Jo, being a longtime friend of Hye Won, doesn’t turn against her. It’s just that I felt a little thrown by how matter-of-factly Professor Jo refers to Sun Jae’s relationship with Hye Won. “Liking someone doesn’t mean you have to know everything about her. We try to understand everything. Right now, she is one of the 24 pieces you played last night. The picture in there is the theme song.”
I suppose it really is as Lane said, in her comment on the last Open Thread, that this being a music university, everyone who’s worth their salt would likely have understood what Sun Jae had meant, in choosing the Brahms Intermezzo as his encore piece.
Aside from Professor Jo, and later, his wife Ji Soo, however, everyone else seems either out to drag down Hye Won, or stop the relationship, or.. just sit back to gloat over how the rich and powerful fall.
Young Woo’s snooping around to find evidence of the relationship, even getting her toy boy lover to get information out of Jang Ho, while she herself tries to pry information out of the fortune teller whom Joon Hyung visited; Madam Han’s personally snooping around by testing Da Mi, at the tipoff from Madam Baek; even Young Woo’s driver tries to blackmail Hye Won via text message. Plus, the secretaries and all the other staff appear to be gossiping about it as well. It’s all very unsavory, dog-eat-dog sort of stuff.
And in the midst of it all, Sun Jae strives to be the shelter that Hye Won needs, even though he, too, is powerless. I think it says a lot that Hye Won sneaks out of Chairman Seo’s house, to “get a breath of fresh air,” even though she’s already in a precarious situation, and any suspicious moves on her part, wouldn’t do her any good. Yet, she can’t help herself; when Sun Jae texts to tell her that he’s nearby, she can’t stop herself from going out to see him, even if it means undertaking even more risk.
What I do notice, though, is that while Hye Won would have tried to keep her true feelings from Sun Jae in the past, now, the moment she sees him, she tells him that she was out of her mind. She says it in such a matter-of-fact manner, and the words come so easily to her lips, that it really reminds me of just how much Hye Won has removed her mask, in front of Sun Jae.
No wonder she’d saved Sun Jae as “Home,” in her second, privately held mobile. Home is where the heart is – and also, home is where we feel most comfortable. In both of these senses, Sun Jae is home to Hye Won.
I appreciate that Sun Jae urges Hye Won to put down everything and run away with him. Up to this point in our story, Hye Won hasn’t ever seemed to entertain any other option, but to stay and face the unpleasantness, and fight this fight. It feels quite refreshing, actually, to see Sun Jae be the one to tell Hye Won that Hannam-dong isn’t the universe. Sure, Sun Jae’s suggestion may not be practical to Hye Won’s ears, but I just like the idea that Hye Won has a choice; that she doesn’t have to fight this fight, if she doesn’t want to.
Even Jang Ho and Da Mi visit Sun Jae, to tell him to stay away from Hye Won for a while. Both of them are from Sun Jae’s world, rather than from Hye Won’s, and still, this is their perspective, and their strong advice to Sun Jae. It really does seem like no one is on Sun Jae and Hye Won’s side.
What I find interesting, is how Sun Jae chooses to respond to Da Mi and Jang Ho, after hearing their advice. He doesn’t answer them in words; he answers them with his music – their music, since he uses the piano accompaniment played by Hye Won.
Essentially, in not so many words, it feels like he’s showing Da Mi and Jang Ho, at a very visceral level, just what he has with Hye Won. And the transcendental nature of the music moves even Da Mi and Jang Ho to tears, even though neither of them claims to know music. And it’s immediately after being moved by this music, that Da Mi and Jang Ho leave Sun Jae’s home, essentially retreating from their mission – at least for a while.
This scene feels powerful to me, because it feels like a statement of how the connection between Hye Won and Sun Jae, is so transcendent, that even reason has to withdraw, in the face of its beauty.
At the same time, through all of this, the way Sun Jae and Hye Won continue to miss each other, is clear to see. The way Sun Jae seems out of sorts, whether he’s taken to his bed, or working to keep to a normal routine, tells me that he’s suffering from heartache, through it all.
And then there’s Hye Won’s conversation with Ji Soo in the car, which is so brilliantly done. I am grateful that Ji Soo is kind and non-judgmental, even though she knows about Hye Won’s relationship with Sun Jae. And, my heart can’t help but go out to Hye Won, as her well-practiced facade of fine-ness gives way to tears.
What strikes me, is just how much Hye Won crumples, in the face of her true emotions. All this time, she’s put up a strong and brave front, telling Sun Jae that she’s sly and manipulative, and basically will be able to handle all these crafty people who are closing in on them. But in this moment, with her best friend, she breaks down as she admits that even in the face of all this, she can’t stop missing Sun Jae. Oof. It’s hard to see Hye Won like this. 💔
I feel like this screenshot sums up a large part of the foundation of this episode; Joon Hyung trying to either reason with or corner Hye Won, while Hye Won tries to avoid it. It’s kind of excruciating to watch, honestly, although there is some momentary reprieve.
I believe that Joon Hyung means it, when he tells Hye Won that he doesn’t want a divorce; that it basically wouldn’t be acceptable, given his family background. At the same time, it’s interesting to see that Joon Hyung eventually hires a private investigator to tail Hye Won and gather evidence of her infidelity.
At first glance, this seems to contradict his statement, that he doesn’t want to divorce Hye Won, because most of the time, such evidence of infidelity is used in divorce lawsuits. It feels like Joon Hyung’s simply at his wits’ end with Hye Won, because she keeps dodging him when he tries to reason with her on this issue.
On the one hand, it could be that Joon Hyung’s so exasperated and provoked, that he’s changed his mind and has decided to prove her infidelity and divorce her. On the other hand (which I personally think is more likely), it’s also possible that Joon Hyung’s planning to use this evidence as leverage against her – not to divorce her, but to get her to do what he wants, in terms of keeping up their show marriage.
At the same time, both Chairman Seo and Madam Han are putting pressure on Hye Won, to secure her undivided loyalty, and I feel like Hye Won’s basically trying to avoid making a commitment to either of them. Chairman Seo can’t do anything about it, since he’s being held in custody, but you can bet your last dollar, that Madam Han’s not going to just sit there and take it, while Hye Won hedges.
I feel like through all of this, Hye Won’s efforts to get Sun Jae to leave for Germany are much like how, in action thrillers, when one character is stuck in a life or death situation, they urge their companion to get out while they can. I think it’s getting to a point where Hye Won’s not so sure anymore, that she’ll be able to get out of this situation unscathed, but she wants to secure Sun Jae’s safety and future, while she still can.
Unfortunately, Joon Hyung seeing Sun Jae’s repeated visits with Professor Jo, doesn’t help the situation at all. I think it just makes Joon Hyung more angry than ever, because Sun Jae is supposed to be his student; the protégé who’s finally going to prove Joon Hyung’s worth in competition with Professor Jo. And, instead of Joon Hyung, Sun Jae’s gravitating towards Professor Jo, in Hye Won’s absence. At least, that’s how it’d likely look, from Joon Hyung’s point of view.
Speaking of which, I thought that scene, of Joon Hyung looking through the glass panel of the door, was a great echo of the scenes of Sun Jae looking in on Hye Won’s world from afar. Joon Hyung may be part of Hye Won’s world, but he’s never truly felt part of the world of the genuinely passionate or talented. This is him, looking in from afar, into a world where he wants to belong, but cannot.
Given Hye Won’s increasingly delicate circumstances, it really does feel like a reckless move, for her to go to Sun Jae’s neighborhood, and eat at the restaurant that he frequents, and then subsequently skip town with him, for what seems to be a spontaneous getaway.
From what I can tell, Hye Won finds it increasingly suffocating to exist in her world, particularly with everyone bearing down on her, and she keeps feeling the need for “fresh air.” That’s what she keeps using as an excuse, when she refers to her meet-ups with Sun Jae. However, I do think that it’s becoming quite literal, for Hye Won. She feels most able to breathe, when she’s with Sun Jae, even when her whole world is threatening to implode on itself.
I do love the scene at the restaurant, where Sun Jae doesn’t say much at all, but simply sits down with her, to share her meal. The look of joy and contentment on Sun Jae’s face is a delight. It’s honestly sweet, that something so simple – sharing a meal with Hye Won – can bring him so much happiness.
I imagine that Hye Won skipping town with Sun Jae on the bus, is her concession to his invitation to essentially run away with him.
It’s nice to see that, given some time, the stress of the “real world” eventually melts away from Hye Won, and she begins to relax, during her time away with Sun Jae.
However, the wounds and regrets are deep, it seems, from the way she tears up while listening to Billy Joel’s Piano Man. It feels like listening to that song takes her right back to her college days, and dredges up a whole range of emotions.
I feel like part of it is Hye Won reacting to the lyrics, which lean poignantly meaningful, like “I’m sure that I could be a movie star if I could get out of this place,” and “They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinkin’ alone.” These lines in particular make me feel like Hye Won could be thinking about the loneliness that her life entails, and what her life might be like, if she could leave her current life.
On top of this, I think there’s also the whole dynamic, of thinking back to her youth, when she hadn’t yet gotten sucked into the world of the rich and powerful. I feel like she’s probably also overcome with emotion, at the thought of what her life might be like now, if she’d made different choices, back then.
It’s all very plaintive and emotional, and Kim Hee Ae kills it, in showing us such a wide yet restrained range of emotion, on Hye Won’s face, as she listens to the song.
Judging from Sun Jae’s reaction, when he reminds Hye Won that she does have a choice, it feels like Sun Jae is tuned in to all of this going on in Hye Won’s heart and mind, even though she doesn’t spell it out for him in so many words. Ahh. These two really are soulmates, aren’t they, for Sun Jae to understand where Hye Won’s heart is at, even though she doesn’t tell him?
It’s also nice to see Hye Won and Sun Jae enjoy a casual, laidback breakfast at the eatery in the village, and I do get a bit of a thrill at Sun Jae’s bold answer to the ahjumma, that Hye Won isn’t his aunt or mother; that they’re a couple.
And while it seems like a faint possibility, there’s definitely a romanticism to Sun Jae’s boldness, in sending out his resume to all the well-known piano teachers, and asking them to take him in, along with his girlfriend.
Even though the likelihood of any of them actually making Sun Jae an offer is dismally slim, there’s something assuring about the fact that Sun Jae really is doing everything in his power to protect Hye Won, and find a way for them to both leave Seohan, and be together elsewhere. He is as serious about Hye Won as he says he is, and he’s putting his words into action, and that.. is heart-wobbling stuff, honestly.
At the same time, it makes me uneasy to see the private investigator going so far as to use a lint roller on their bedding, in order to pick up DNA samples. Yikes. Joon Hyung isn’t playing around, and this makes me nervous for Hye Won.
The other sign that Joon Hyung isn’t playing around, is the way he asks to speak with Hye Won, when she gets home that night. It’s clear that he’s teetering on the edge, because it honestly doesn’t take much, before he explodes.
I feel like if Hye Won’s feelings hadn’t been so invested, and she’d therefore had the capacity to be more shrewd about things, she would have been able to manage Joon Hyung better. After all, she’s managed his tantrums and volatility for years, before Sun Jae came into the picture. But with her heart completely clouded with Sun Jae, I feel that Hye Won has become increasingly clouded in her thinking.
It’s heartwrenching to see how miserable both Hye Won and Sun Jae are, back in their places, both missing each other acutely. The way Sun Jae sobs into his pillow in the dark, after musing that he feels like he’s left his bride in someone else’s room, after his honeymoon, is so tortured and so full of anguish. 💔
However, it feels like there’s no time nor room for languishing in melancholy. Not only is Madam Han pushing Hye Won for evidence of the loyalty she’s asked for, Da Mi’s shown up at Hye Won’s office, to talk specifically about Sun Jae.
It just feels like one thing after another, for Hye Won, doesn’t it? It’s little wonder that she finds it increasingly hard to breathe.