Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Can you believe we are almost at the end of this journey?? Today, we have Hye Won and Sun Jae headlining our post; there are just so many layers of emotion, in this one single scene.
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 again, which I feel embodies the tone of this set of episodes quite perfectly.
Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
We are getting to the (more) difficult part of our story now, and I have to admit that it’s not easy to watch.
Essentially, it feels like the walls are closing in on Hye Won, and everyone in her world, who have always positioned themselves as allies, are now waiting for her to destroy herself, for their benefit.
The amount of stress that Hye Won’s under isn’t so apparent on her face, since she’s practiced so well, to keep a facade of calm and control. But the way she literally falls into a dead faint, after Da Mi’s visit, is a pretty good hint at just how much stress Hye Won’s dealing with, as she tries to make sense of her world, as it threatens to crumble on her – and suffocate her in the process.
The most stomach-turning thing of all, I think, is the way Chairman Seo and Madam Han are speaking to Hye Won with such warm smiles, when in actual fact, they are banking on the assumed promise that Hye Won will take the fall for all the illegal dealings that they’ve been involved in.
It’s no wonder Hye Won looks so uncomfortable, when Chairman Seo calls her into his room, to give her “pocket money” because she’s been working so hard. That’s what he says on the surface, but isn’t this a bribe, for the – again, assumed – promise that Hye Won will quietly take the fall for him?
And Madam Han, for all her smiles and her claims to treasure Hye Won, is literally the one who tips off Da Mi, and tells Da Mi to blackmail Hye Won. Da Mi isn’t wrong, when she blurts out to Hye Won, that they are all ridiculous and disgusting.
Even Secretary Wang, gloats over the goings-on, even though she’s supposed to be Hye Won’s personal friend. She’s literally anticipating Hye Won’s fall with glee, and already studying mahjong books, in the hopes of taking Hye Won’s position, when she vacates it. With friends like this, who needs enemies, right?
Also, it’s just that weird tick of human nature, isn’t it, that Secretary Wang chooses not to consider the possibility that if she were to take Hye Won’s place, then one day, she might be disposed of, just like they are now working to dispose of Hye Won?
It’s interesting to see that despite Sun Jae’s claims to Da Mi, Hye Won isn’t willing to let go of everything, and just run away, with Sun Jae. She’s still determined to fight, so that she can have all that she’s worked for – and Sun Jae too. That’s extremely ambitious, given what Hye Won’s up against.
Watching her, I don’t get the sense that she’s actually confident of winning this fight. She’s determined, however, to give it her best shot, and she’s willing to suffer – and have Sun Jae suffer too – in order to achieve her goal.
I feel bad for Sun Jae, because she’s essentially telling him to stay away from her, and out of her sight, for a long, unspecified period of time. She needs him to pretend that there’s nothing between them, and if we’ve learned anything about Sun Jae, it’s that this is something that would be enormously difficult for him to do.
It’s interesting to me, that in that secret meeting where Hye Won tells Sun Jae all of this, the dynamic is such that Sun Jae doesn’t easily accept Hye Won’s directive for how he should act, going forward. I find it pretty telling, of their relationship dynamic, that Sun Jae’s able to push back, and, in his own way, confront Hye Won with the ugliness of her life.
“Can’t you just use this opportunity to get out completely?” … “What if it takes you a lifetime to get out?” Sun Jae doesn’t shy away from asking these questions, where before, he’d simply been in awe, of Hye Won’s very presence.
And now, when Hye Won attempts to defend herself, by saying, “If I were a nobody… if I weren’t the Vice President of the Art Center… if I didn’t have time or money to take care of myself… would you have liked me still?” Sun Jae doesn’t even hesitate to refute Hye Won’s implied accusation.
“Yes! I’m like a weed, who doesn’t care about that. Don’t use me as your excuse. And just worry about your own life. They say that the average lifespan is now 80 years. If you’re really unlucky… you will have to live the next 60 years without love. If you think you can do that, then go ahead.”
It says a lot, that Sun Jae’s words are able to reduce Hye Won to a defeated, “Will you stop?,” as she holds her head in her hands. The thing is, Sun Jae isn’t actually trying to bully her into submission; he’s just speaking from his heart. I think this is another glimpse into just how precarious Hye Won’s position is, right now.
I feel that at a fundamental level, Sun Jae’s disgusted and disillusioned with the corruption that goes on at Seohan.
I believe that his offer to the cello student, to do the duet with her like she’d once asked, is Sun Jae’s way of fighting back against the system. After all, it seems that everyone is avoiding the cello student, and not offering help, because she’s been cast aside by her department head for daring to file a complaint about instrument corruption.
By offering his help to her and her friends, who would have instantly failed without his assistance, Sun Jae’s pushing back against the system, and that, I think, gives him a sense of purpose and meaning.
Of course, this doesn’t sit right with Professor Kim (Young Woo’s sister-in-law), who gets Joon Hyung to put a stop to it. Thank goodness for Professor Jo, who appears to be successful in blocking Joon Hyung from making a fuss.
It’s interesting to me that Sun Jae texts Hye Won, and quotes her, “You said that music conquers all.” As we enter the final stretch of the episode, and everything starts to feel like a terrible pantomime, where Hye Won and Joon Hyung pretend to be a happily married power couple, while Sun Jae plays the role of their shared protégé, it honestly doesn’t really feel like music is going to conquer all, in this moment.
The terrible pantomime continues, this episode, and it’s hard to watch. I can only imagine how hard it must be, for Hye Won and Sun Jae, to have to actually live through it, and keep up a reasonable level of pretense, through it all.
The entire time the interview-turned-party is going on, it’s clear to see that both Hye Won and Sun Jae are highly uncomfortable, and just doing their best to hide it. However, it’s when Sun Jae takes to the piano, on Joon Hyung’s drunken order, that it becomes clear just how messed up he feels.
The thing about music, is that it conveys so much about the person playing it. Before, Sun Jae’s music had carried life and passion to Hye Won’s ears, soaking her in it, and imbuing her with the same, as she allowed the music to wash over her.
Now, though, Sun Jae’s music carries in it, anguish, frustration and pure torture. The moment Sun Jae takes to the piano, his emotional landscape becomes laid bare, and Hye Won finally sees – feels – in a stark and very raw manner, exactly how messed up Sun Jae feels. I believe that’s why she crumples up, sobbing, as she stands outside the piano studio, listening.
I feel like when Hye Won had first made her request to Sun Jae, about bearing with her charade with Joon Hyung, she hadn’t realized just how much it would affect Sun Jae. But now, with every note of his music relaying his agony in raw, lurid detail, she cannot help but break down, in response.
That scene in the garage, where Hye Won and Sun Jae finally have a private moment together, feels so plaintive and full of burgeoning, unspoken emotion. Hye Won looks positively stricken, as she looks at Sun Jae, and Sun Jae, in turn, looks so exhausted and sad.
I appreciate that Hye Won tries to apologize for making Sun Jae do something so terrible, but clearly, some damage has been done. Sun Jae still holds her to himself, but, importantly, he doesn’t kiss her like he usually does. Instead, he tells her, “Please don’t make yourself look pitiful. I can’t kiss a pitiful woman.” Ack. That’s gotta sting.
The way Hye Won tearfully squeaks out, “Don’t talk like that,” we can feel just how much this kills her. The way Hye Won curls up on her own afterwards, she looks a far cry from the confident, polished, accomplished woman that we’d met, at the beginning of our story.
And the way Sun Jae eventually crumples to the ground, sobbing, outside Hye Won’s house, is so guttural; it’s like he’s trying to hold it in, but the sobs are pushing their way out anyway, against his will. There’s something so.. broken and so.. mournful, in the way that he cries.
It feels like he’s lost the thing that’s most precious to him, and in this moment, I can’t help feeling that that thing, is ultimately his innocence. He’d used to see Hye Won as a perfect goddess, and he’d used to see the world through more idealistic eyes. And now, that’s all gone. It feels like he’s lost his perfect goddess, and his positive outlook on life, and he’s now grieving the loss. 💔
In the meantime, even though I already know that Hye Won is being carefully scripted to be the scapegoat for the Seohan family, it still turns my stomach somewhat, to see the meeting between Young Woo, Prosecutor Kim, and Madam Han.
In fact, in this scene, it would seem that it’s Young Woo, who’s always been antagonistic towards Hye Won, who’s kinda-sorta speaking up for her, when she points out that the accusations against Hye Won are false. And, I can’t help but notice that it’s Madam Han, who’s always been so pleasantly appreciative of Hye Won, who smoothly says that it doesn’t matter whether the accusations are true or not; it just needs to stick in people’s minds.
How ironic, that when push comes to shove, Young Woo should be the one coming out looking like the one who’s more supportive of Hye Won. It’s all relative, really.
Also, I do have to love the sardonic way in which Young Woo’s husband Prosecutor Kim points out that they shouldn’t bring up Hye Won’s affair with a younger man, because no one in the Seo household can stone her for it. HA. Exactly right, and somehow, hearing him say that out loud, and seeing the shades of sheepish shame flash across the Seo faces, gives me a rather dark sense of satisfaction.
Hye Won goes to the beauty shop to seek out Da Mi, in order to find out exactly what evidence Madam Han’s placed in Da Mi’s hands. How curious, though, that when Da Mi actually tells her what sort of evidence it is, Hye Won tells her to show it to Sun Jae. I’m rather curious as to why Hye Won says that.
Da Mi’s theory is that Hye Won had intended to thoroughly disappoint Sun Jae so that he would run away doesn’t feel quite right, in the sense that I don’t think that Hye Won actually wants to drive Sun Jae away. Perhaps it stems from a sense of self-hatred, for all the terrible things she’s done, and what she’s become, over the years, and this is her way of laying it bare, before Sun Jae?
The way Joon Hyung tries all different angles in trying to pressure her to get arrested and take the fall like everyone wants to, is quite repulsive, honestly.
When his nicer words fail to get him anywhere, I’m rather shocked – though not exactly surprised – when Joon Hyung yells at Hye Won at home, “You should sacrifice yourself a hundred times over for me!” Gag. The sense of entitlement is so enormous; how does he even function, having to carry that around all the time? 😅😝
It does seem like it’s all getting to be too much for Hye Won, judging from the way she seeks out hard liquor at home, even after drinking wine and champagne over dinner with Joon Hyung. Not only that, she drinks a second glass, even though it’s clear that she’d only intended to drink the one glass. It looks like it’s become so much to bear, that she requires more than a bit of alcohol, to dull the pain.
As we round off the episode, it really seems like we are on the cusp of something terrible. Prosecutor Kim’s got people on standby, waiting to pounce the minute Hye Won and Sun Jae meet up again, and here’s Sun Jae, literally on Hye Won’s doorstep, in a moment when she’s feeling particularly exhausted and vulnerable. Ack. I can’t look. 🙈