Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I feel like this is the perfect shot to headline our post; Hye Won and Sun Jae, together at the piano, exactly where they belong. ❤️
Just a couple of things:
1. We are starting our next round of group watches next week, of My Mister and Someday Or One Day. I hope to see everyone there!! Announcement post is here, with all the details that you might need.
2. If you’d like to check out my review of Secret Love Affair, you can find it here!
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Secret Love Affair OST – Devotion
In case you’d like to soak in the music as you read the episode notes, here’s Devotion again, which I feel is the perfect note on which to end our journey.
Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
I feel like this episode is basically everyone circling around Hye Won, and trying to get the walls to close in on her, by whatever means available, and Hye Won, trying to find a way to breathe, through it all.
In the beginning of the episode, when Hye Won takes off with Sun Jae, Prosecutor Kim (along with everyone else) thinks that Hye Won and Sun Jae will head to a motel, and ready to ambush them for evidence of their adultery.
It’s so interesting, that it’s Sun Jae’s decision, to walk hand in hand with Hye Won on the busy streets of Seoul instead, which foils this plan. How ironic, that it’s his innocent, pure desire to just go on a date with Hye Won, and hold her hand, that outwits the wily schemers on her tail.
The part of Sun Jae’s conversation with Hye Won that tugs at my heartstrings the most, is when he imagines an alternate reality, where Hye Won is the owner of one of the apparel shops in the area, and Sun Jae is a delivery boy, and they’re both working hard for a living, when Sun Jae sweeps her away.
It’s so sweetly mundane, and I imagine that, if they really were living in that reality, that their love wouldn’t be up against the same type of obstacles as they are facing now.
In that sense, there’s a sense of wistfulness about it, because it’s not hard to think of the what if’s. Like, what if they’d been born in slightly different circumstances, and met then? Would their love have been any easier?
I do like Sun Jae’s laidback conclusion, that everyone has a story; that it’s basically not easy for anybody. That’s a pretty mature point of view, I feel. Instead of wallowing in the what if’s, which would be so easy to do, he seems to gamely accept that it is what it is, almost like it’s the price to pay, for loving Hye Won.
Yet, later in the episode, as things continue to evolve, and as Hye Won continues to fight in the ways the she knows how, it becomes clear that this is all starting to wear on him.
It brings me back to the idea of Sun Jae losing his innocence, because of his relationship with Hye Won, and the angst and anguish that he shows, while talking with Professor Jo, really makes my heart go out to him.
This really puts a different spin on the earlier scene, where Hye Won remarks that Sun Jae isn’t even scared, and he holds her and tells that everything will be fine.
Contrasted with how disturbed he looks in the scene with Professor Jo, it really seems that it’s more like Sun Jae is still too naive and innocent to know when to be scared. Kinda like a toddler who doesn’t know to be wary of hot water or live wires.
I appreciate though, that Sun Jae continues to do his best to protect Hye Won, in any way that he can.
Like when they end up being hauled to the police station by Joon Hyung (a very low move by Joon Hyung, for sure), Sun Jae really can’t do much for Hye Won, but he sees an opportunity to at least shield her from having to sit next to Joon Hyung, and takes it.
Sun Jae’s earnestness in this area has always been very endearing to me.
One of the things that strikes me as very interesting, is how Hye Won appears so calm and relaxed, up to the point of being apprehended at Sun Jae’s apartment, even though she is fully aware of how hard the people around her, are working to trap her and destroy her.
I found this quite fascinating, because while Prosecutor Kim and everyone else are full of terse conversations and urgent calculations, Hye Won’s gracefully walking to the practice studio, to enjoy the music that Sun Jae and the rest of the string musicians make together. It’s really quite an odd state of affairs.
I suppose part of it is because Hye Won has something of a plan, and has a lot of important evidence in her possession that she can use as leverage. Still, I found this quite dissonant, because I imagine that most people, in her position, would appear a lot more stressed.
Perhaps another part of it, is how Sun Jae’s music tends to have a restorative effect on Hye Won.
Maybe Hye Won’s drawing some of that peace from the very act of listening to Sun Jae’s music, and so it’s not that she’s so zen that she has the bandwidth to listen to his music, but that, it’s because she takes the time to listen to his music, that she is so zen..?
On a separate note, I have to say that Secretary Wang is such a great example of just how predatory the people in Hye Won’s world are. She makes a show out of being Hye Won’s friend, but when the opportunity presents itself, she wastes no time at all, in taking over Hye Won’s office – with glee.
I have to admit, I gloated, when she has to backpedal very hurriedly, when Hye Won gets her job back, via her deal with Prosecutor Kim.
I also got some perverse satisfaction from the way Sun Jae hugs Hye Won openly, outside the police station, in front of all the people who’d gathered to watch her fall.
I mean, it’s certainly not a very classy move, I tend to think, and yet, after all the vitriol and condemnation, it just feels rebelliously gratifying, to see these same people gawk at their blithe display of affection.
In particular, Young Woo seems legitimately jealous, that theirs appears to be true love. And Joon Hyung appears thoroughly defeated, since he’s just filed for divorce, and it doesn’t appear to be hurting Hye Won the way he’d intended; in fact, she talks about it being a cause for celebration.
At the same time, even though Hye Won appears to have the upper hand, it doesn’t seem that all going very well.
First, there’s Sun Jae and how he’s struggling to come to terms with Hye Won’s chosen actions. That’s definitely something that Hye Won would care about, I imagine, since she sincerely cares about Sun Jae.
And then there’s how Prosecutor Kim tries to turn the tables on Hye Won, so soon after their alliance is formed at the police station.
He’s definitely a force to be reckoned with, since he’s literally in a position to make things very difficult for Hye Won. Will Hye Won be able to counter him effectively, now that he’s decided that he wants more than she’d originally bargained for?
Through all of this, the words from Professor Jo’s friend come to mind:
“An instrument is nothing until you play it. Same goes for people. I admit that I once wanted a nice instrument.
But if your heart is not there, it’s just an item, regardless of how valuable it is. Likewise, no matter how cheap the instrument is, it can express your feelings and contain them. Cherish and adore what you have with all of your hearts.”
The same can be said of life, isn’t it?
“A life is nothing until you live it. Cherish and adore what you have with all of your hearts.”
Will Hye Won be able to make that choice, as we go into the finale?
This finale wasn’t easy to watch, particularly in the first half, but man, I couldn’t ask for a better ending to our story, honestly.
Ultimately, Hye Won makes a choice to give up everything, and I think it’s really important, that she had that choice to make.
It feels important, that she actually could have continued with her negotiations with Prosecutor Kim and the Seo family, and retained the position, wealth and influence that she’d enjoyed while in their employ – and yet, in the end, she makes the choice to walk away from it all.
It also feels important, that it’s Sun Jae who acts as the catalyst that causes Hye Won to reconsider her chosen path.
It’s only when Hye Won becomes cognizant of the fact that Sun Jae’s become disillusioned with her, and doesn’t even want to talk about her to “Mak Ki Hyung,” when before, he’d been so effusive about his “goddess,” that she really feels confronted with the reality of where she’s at, and what her actions have done to Sun Jae.
The way we see her walk through the house and recall the key moments she’s shared in Sun Jae in those spaces, with such a wistful, rueful look on her face, tells us the realization that she’s coming to.
In her memories, Sun Jae, on his first visit to the house, looks so fresh-faced, so untainted, and so innocent, and it’s such a contrast to where he is now, disillusioned, worried and wretched, over what Hye Won is going through.
It’s a masterful series of moments, as we see Hye Won drift through the house, ever so slowly, gradually thinking over Sun Jae’s every expression, action and reaction, over the course of the last few months.
It’s clear that it breaks her heart to confront this, and I personally believe that this is the moment that Hye Won actually makes her decision to turn herself in, the way she does.
I also think it’s important to note that Hye Won turning herself in like that, isn’t a revenge move against the Seo family, even though the evidence includes information that would get them into trouble.
I feel that Hye Won’s primary purpose, which becomes clearer, the deeper we get into this finale, is to satisfy her conscience, so that she can start over on a clean slate.
Over the years, she’s done many things, and over time, her conscience has become so burdened that she has trouble sleeping at night. It’s only after she pays the price for her crimes, that she’s able to sleep soundly – even while she’s in a penitentiary cell.
I feel that it’s important to note that in her closing remarks at her trial (which, ok, lean a little melodramatic for real court proceedings, but which are ultimately in tune with Show’s general tone), Hye Won emphasizes that her actions were her choice.
Even though Hye Won had been instructed to do these things as part of her job, it’s true that she always had the choice to walk away. She could have quit her job at any time, and left that life, if she’d wanted to, and Hye Won wants to acknowledge that fact, as well as the fact that she chose not to leave.
I also this is something of a callback to Hye Won’s earlier conversation, in episode 7, with the waitress at the restaurant, who’d had that brief fling with Chairman Seo.
At the time, Hye Won had felt disconcerted and ashamed, by how the other woman had been so forthright and so clear about refusing to do anything for dirty money, while she herself dealt with dirty money daily, for a living.
I feel like this is also Hye Won’s way of vindicating herself.
It’s perfect, that as Hye Won takes the stand and speaks her mind so honestly, Sun Jae looks on with such pride in his face. Hye Won may have taught Sun Jae a lot of things, but in this matter of being true to your values, Sun Jae has been the teacher, and Hye Won, the student.
And right now, it feels like a proud teacher moment, as Sun Jae watches, beaming with pride and.. a sense of release, as he watches Hye Won face up to her past, so that she can face her future.
On a tangent, I thought it was meaningful, that in the period of time where Hye Won’s case awaits sentencing, we get that scene were Professor Jo plays, while Sun Jae listens.
Again, there’s this idea of the healing power of music. And while Sun Jae had provided that for Hye Won on many an occasion, now, when he needs that healing quality himself, Professor Jo, in his kindness, provides it for him. I do love that.
I think it’s apt that Sun Jae quits Seohan University. After all that’s happened, it would have been too difficult and too suffocating for him to have continued studying there.
This alternative, where Professor Jo gives him guidance towards preparing independently for a piano competition, feels much more suitable to Sun Jae’s style.
I do love the scene where Sun Jae visits Hye Won, and they chat for a while. I like the laidback, casual vibe of the conversation, because it emphasizes that her being in jail isn’t the end of the world for either of them.
I appreciate that Hye Won thanks Sun Jae for all that he’s done for her; that he’d loved her, and helped her to let go of everything, which she wouldn’t have been able to do, on her own.
It feels fitting, that she’d tell him that it’s ok for him to leave, but it also feels fitting, that he’d tell her that they need to give their relationship a shot, because it would be a waste not to.
I like how this all works out to be a choice for Sun Jae. He’s not obliged to wait for Hye Won to complete her sentence, but he wants to. That feels so important.
I love that we get a glimpse into their daily routines afterwards. I love that Hye Won’s expression is so full of peace, as she looks out into the world with new, liberated eyes.
She might not have physical freedom at this time, but it’s clear to see that her heart is free, finally, and that feels far more precious.
Finally, I love the idea that Sun Jae plays his piece, Rondo in A Minor, every single day, and thinks of it as his way of touching Hye Won.
She might be far away from him right now, but they’ve always connected in their own special realm, in the music, and it feels to me, that even while they look forward to the day that they can be together again, they’ll continue to meet like they used to, in that transcendent, magical realm of music.
I haven’t been able to join the group watch as my time has been quite constrained recently, being free in fits and starts makes it challenging to maintain the same pace as the group. I did race ahead and finish the show ahead of the group and while I’ve read many of the comments, I haven’t been able to respond hitherto.
SLA is a tremendous show for all the reasons others have cited, I’ll just add my take on the characters.
I can relate to HW, it’s very easy to be sucked into the corporate world and the lifestyle. It’s doubly hard for HW as she was sponsored as a poor student and has been up close to the wealth and lifestyle but not being a part of it. Who can blame her for wanting it?
I think it’s a goal of all wealthy individuals to shield their wealth from taxes and regulations. The disclosures contained in the Panama and Pandora Papers illustrate this, politicians, businessmen and other wealthy individuals of all stripes and colors have one thing in common, use of elaborate offshore mechanisms to shield income and wealth from the taxman. It’s not right but it’s reality. To date, I don’t think anyone has been prosecuted. HW was the tool and not the beneficiary (except for her salary and compensation) and it’s easy for one to fall into the trap of thinking the real crimes are being committed by her bosses.
In one of my past corporate assignments, I was involved in a similar situation, developing complex solutions (typically offshore) to achieve the company’s goals. I found it very exhilarating and tense at times and was driven by the thrill and satisfaction of solving complex problems against tight deadlines more than anything else. However, unlike HW, I decided that I would not do anything illegal (most of the world is grey, not black or white), nor would I lie for the company. Once you venture down this road as HW does, there’s no floor to how far you can fall.
I find it hard to believe that HW would deliver the Chairman and Madame Han to the authorities without negotiating a lesser sentence for herself. She’s uncovering these crimes that the authorities had no hope of finding by themselves, especially with crooked prosecutor Kim running interference for the Seo family. It’s naive and a touch melodramatic that a 40+ year old HW would expose all this without negotiating some reduction in her sentence. I’m not sure she doesn’t get the worst deal here, Professor Jo thinks she might be out in a year and a half, but she gets 10 years. I wonder what the Chairman and Madame Han got? Cynically, I suspect a lot less. It’s telling to me that the show doesn’t disclose this information.
There have been comments along the lines of HW being “reformed” by the purity and innocence of Sun Jae’s love and while I see that as one of the factors influencing HW’s decision, it’s either that or her taking the blame for it all. So it’s not a “pure” self-sacrifice, it’s just ” if I’m going to fall, I’ll take you all with me”. The rope has run out and her other option is to take the fall for the family, serve a few years in jail, and emerge on the other side still wealthy, maybe even more so. The chairman’s gift to her says this without actually saying it.
The SJ character as played by YAI was a little off putting to me at first but then I realized he’s meant to be a relatively naive, unsophisticated 20 year old. SJ never changes, his emotional core remains the same as he enters the corrupt, sleazy world HW lives in. YAI does an excellent job showing the vulnerability and guilelessness of SJ as he enters into a relationship with a sophisticated older woman who inhabits a corrupt world, without care for the consequences. In many ways, he is not the central character of SLA, he’s the catalyst at the right time that causes HW to question her life choices and to undergo the emotional growth that allows her to take a chance on love after all these years. I know it’s for the show but I question whether HW and SJ’s relationship will survive her 10 years in prison. In that time, SJ would have seen the outside world, competed in competitions, earned money and those experiences will change him, I think it’s 50/50 at best if their relationship survives. The ending is a bit of a fantasy but the writer is entitled to whatever ending he/she wants, once it’s not totally out there.
I noted the Da Mi character caused quite a controversy among different viewers. I don’t know if it’s a gender thing but I understand where she is coming from. She has no illusions that SJ loves her but she is still willing to marry him for “companionship,” as she says, that can be enough for a relationship to survive. I can understand her strong belief that HW will not give up her world for SJ and that world would be toxic for SJ who would only end up getting hurt. She believes strongly she is the best choice for SJ. Her behaviour is rough at times but she is the result of a difficult childhood and while she maybe physically over the top, her emotional core is pure. She loves SJ and wants to protect him.
Thanks to KFG and all who provided comments.
Thank you for writing this.
I’d like to make a couple of points though:
Why do you think HW got a 10 year sentence? Besides the professor, the women in her cell also said that she got a reduced sentence, because she had given additional compromising materials to the prosecution.
Yes, Da Mi is willing to marry, but who exactly is asking her? If I remember correctly, Sun Jae’s attitude is “you are not a woman to me, and stay away from my private affairs “.
Given his talent, his new life, how on earth can she think that she’d be the best choice of a wife for him? And why would she wanted him to settle for anybody, let alone for her? This is so selfish. For the record, in my opinion, his relationship with HW has been and will be problematic for many, many reasons. This still doesn’t make Da Mi the right choice for SJ.
My memory maybe hazy but I thought the Professor mentioned to SJ that she would probably get a reduced sentence since she helped the prosecution but this was before her sentencing. Her cellmates were saying she got 10 years and this is after the sentencing, of course. This is the only information I think we get about her sentence and we get nothing about the Chairman and Madame Han. Can anyone else shed some light on this issue?
I agree with you that Da Mi is a bad match for SJ but I was commenting from her perspective, how she views HY and the corrupt environment HY operates in. So I think she really believes she is the better choice for SJ even though he loves HY.
Her cellmates were saying that under normal circumstances she would’ve gotten ten years for her crimes, but the prosecutor had made a deal with her to get a bigger fish. She betrayed her boss and got a reduced sentence.
“So I think she really believes she is the better choice for SJ even though he loves HY.”
That’s the problem with Da Mi: besides everything else, she is delusional. She doesn’t stand a chance, no matter what happens between SJ and HY.
@Geo @MariaF – what makes Dami wrong for SJ? (Other than the obvious reason that he’s not into her.) Do you guys think she’s not good enough for him? If so, why not?
@beez: My apologies for the late reply, I’m just been occupied with various things for a while now.
Apart from the obvious reason, I think SJ has entered into a new world and new experiences which have resulted in significant personal growth, distancing him even further from Dami. She is loyal and I think would lay down her life for SJ but is that the only basis for a successful relationship.
I’m exaggerating but that would be similar to your relationship with a dog. It can be fulfilling in its own way but is that all you want or need? This probably works for many people but it’s not a relationship of equals and that would be my concern. I’m not saying that both partners have to be intellectually equal but they need to have similar core goals and the ability to maintain an independent component in their lives. SJ’s and Dami’s goals and lives are too far apart and in time, each will probably come to resent the other.
Don’t know if this helps.
@Geo – No need to apologize. (I’m not even sure about how long it’s been since you posted your response.)
And your answer is perfect. Since I’m not rewatching and am only poking my nose in here and there, I really wanted to know the thought processes of everyone.
I was also thinking about the time my family got so mad at my cousin for doing something stupid (but we all knew she was stupid already) so I was questioning “Do we love people based on their intelligence?” Here’s what happened – we were all at a cousin’s house when the doorbell rang. The Homeowner Cousin was busy in the kitchen so Dumb Cousin went to the door. When she came back from the door and Homeowner Cousin said “Who was at the door?” Dumb Cousin said “It was some guy who said he hit your car.” End of story. Admittedly, we were all in our 20’s and 30’s and didn’t realize, as yet, just how dumb… 😆 She didn’t get a phone number, nothing. Ever since the uproar (which was big and long lasting), I’ve wondered do we equate intelligence with whether someone is worthy of being loved?
Although I do get how some people may feel ML has moved beyond the Little Tough Girl and I see how that can make them incompatible but I think there are some people who thrive although unequal in a lot of ways.
As to my own question, I’m still wondering about it. I’d like to think the answer is “no” because obviously parents and family love dumb people all the time. But how does that work in relationships?
I agree that Geo’s answer is perfect. In my mind, ‘not being into someone’ and ‘being wrong for someone’ are two different things. Da Mi would not have been right for SJ, even if he liked her. She can neither understand nor inspire him, and that’s what makes her wrong for him.
This is a very tricky and quite common issue and it can work out pretty cruelly to outside observers but who knows the truth about others in their relationships? I know friends living on both sides of the issue. A couple of examples:
One friend married his long time girlfriend under tremendous family pressure (both sides) even though he drunkenly confided to me one night (wow, was I living a Kdrama?) before his marriage that his girlfriend was a great girl but he had nothing in common with her after he had returned to the West Indies from studying in the US with significant academic success and personal growth, she was a high school graduate and adored him (shades of Dami). Still he married her and had kids but I think he got his intellectual and “emotional” (I don’t mean affairs but can’t think of a better word) stimulation in his career. So I think it worked for him at one level.
I know of a similar situation but in Canada this time, he was in construction, skilled and doing reasonably well, supporting his wife through university and very proud of her achievements. As he told me about her over the years, I got some uneasy vibes but never mentioned anything to him. Unsurprisingly (to me), she broke up with him when she graduated, having met a more “interesting” person, more of an intellectual soulmate. My friend was devastated but I understood her perspective. Should she have stayed out of gratitude for his financial and life support while she was at university? I’m not sure what she should have done but her behaviour seemed very opportunistic and cruel, to break up after you no longer need the support. Maybe it’s just the timing that’s really bad.
So the short answer is…there is no one answer that fits all situations.
Did your “Dumb” cousin (I don’t like labelling people thusly since I believe everyone has their own strengths) find a partner and have a successful relationship?
Thank you for sharing your stories.
Re your first friend:
was he ever passionately in love? I think that would make a difference, when considering whether it was ok for him to marry his girlfriend.
Re your second friend:
it’s hard to judge and say whether the wife should’ve stayed. What she shouldn’t have done (in my opinion) was to stay with your friend for the financial support, knowing full well that she was going to leave him, once that support was no longer needed.
I have a story of my own:
I had a friend who married her husband, a very decent man, (whom she liked and respected, and who was very much in love with her), to get away from her own family. Her father and the stepmother treated her terribly.
She and her husband were actually what’s called “right for each other”. They had a child together. And then she fell in love with another man. It was true love. That man begged her to leave her husband and to marry him. Out of sense of duty and gratefulness, she refused and eventually broke up with that man. But I think that decision broke her heart. And it affected her health. She developed some kind of chronic condition (all that stress, constant crying, etc.). She had to be hospitalized periodically for treatment for the rest of her life. Her loving husband stayed with her, of course. But was it worth it? When her son grew up, she told him her story. As much as he loved his father, the son thought she should’ve left.
Mariaf @Geo – Wow. Just wow.
As I began reading @Maria’s comment, I was thinking about “loyalty” and “just not being a azzh*le” and things like that but then – just wow.
@Geo – no. My cousin made some really, really dumb choices in men. I mean, that’s not an indictment cause most of us have but… One example, she was 28 (were all in our 60’s now) but she was being “played” by my next door neighbor who is the exact same age as me. She was 28 and he was 22. I could not believe that a young guy could treat an older woman in a way where he had all the control. Usually at those ages, she would’ve had him “running behind her”. One other example – her skin tone is around the shade of a milk dud (just for reference), she was dating and got pregnant by an extremely dark guy. She actually said to us “I just hope my baby isn’t dark liked he is”. OMG. That is so embarrassing that I thought about not writing it here. You shouldn’t have become pregnant by him if you didn’t want to run that risk! And it’s just so stupid for so many reasons – one of which is she shouldn’t have gotten pregnant at all! Geo, I don’t even have time to go into it. I don’t know how she made it through school without some teacher having her tested. I probably shouldn’t, but 😆
This is turning into quite the side discussion.
To answer MariaF, I don’t know whether my friend in the first example was ever deeply in love with his girlfriend as I didn’t know him prior to his going away. I think she was a high school sweetheart, both families were close and he admitted she was a very nice person, quite capable in the home and attractive. But he didn’t feel the same way after returning, just felt there was something missing, though he thought they could have a “nice” life together. Interestingly, it’s not as if he suddenly changed when he returned, it was an on-going process but he didn’t have to face up to it until he came back for good. So he chose to marry her in the end, someone else might have acted differently, this is the wonder of human nature. And neither decision is necessarily “right” or “wrong”, it all depends on the individual.
beez, your cousin sounds quite insecure and that can result in so much dysfunctional behaviour. It’s somewhat understandable that for your cousin, skin colour was perceived to be important, but it’s tragic that it’s still this way even today (though it has diminished in North America) and among the younger generation. I was told by friends from India and The Phillipines that one of the best selling cosmetic products in these countries is skin lightening creams. This just boggles the mind.
@Geo – Not just India, but S. Korea as well. Most of their skin care products and makeup automatically include “skin brighteners”. Lighter skin has always been desired throughout history throughout much of the world because it meant wealth (i.e., you didn’t spend time outside doing manual labor). I understand that 🙄 but my cousin’s reaction was stupid to me because if your child’s father is dark, then you should expect, and accept, that as a possible outcome or not get pregnant by him. Duh!
i spilled my guts over this “knockout” drama, and now at the end i kind of feel emptied out. will there ever been anything like it, or will i have to compare every other production to this one, and stay for ever craving again another SLA.
the episode starts with them walking together on a busy street, or outdoor market, a regular couple. except as many pointed out, she is this young man’s teacher, 20 years older, married, he is this innocent, naïve in a way, at the very start of his life. it seems not just one, but worlds apart, an impossibility. and yet, with not a worry in the world, they walk around, joke and a garden of phantasies is blooming right in front of their eyes.
“you must love me very much” -she. “ye” – he. “you look like you are not intimidated” – she. in response he embraces her with a burning urge, a deep, passionate kiss, and we can feel his intense ache for her to protect her from all evil, to hold her just like this for ever. and at this moment, right there in the middle of a busy street with all the people around, in this hug and kiss – all else melts away: the borders of 20 years older, the teacher-student properness, the married woman’s taboo. it simply melts into “one precious molten metal” – their love.
in the end, with a heart sprinkled with a pound of salt from my tears and drowned with sadness mixed with cautious hope for both of them, there is another drama in my head, a sort of season two of SLA. hae won gets a reduced sentence, is out of prison after just a few months for good behavior, they both move in together into her new house, much smaller, but cozy and homey, (i hope she did save some money after working so many years), she gets a job teaching students at another school, he wins competitions, they love, they fight, they joke, they play – they live. i have to imagine this, i simply must.
and for myself, as years go by and i get to the point when my body is no longer mine to be able to do anything but just use my eyes and ears to watch tv and rely on what is left from my life in my mind – that’s the time i will watch again “secret love affair” – and find my heart again.
@eda very poetic sniff 😥
This was my third watch, and I found it more satisfying than in any previous watch, if for no other reason, I could really pay attention to the ensemble performances.
“I don’t know if it will be a year or ten years, but we should try living together at least. One day will fight each other like crazy, one day we’ll fool around together all day. If we break up without even doing that, it’s too wasteful.”
“Ah you don’t play this piece, you touch it. There are about 2770 notes and I guess there are a little more than 500 chords? I touch you like that, dear, every day. Always. Wickedly sexy You.”
So beautiful. So suggestive. A subtle and mature happy ending.
I didn’t contribute to these group watch at all, but I read some of the threads. Thank you for every one’s thoughts here. This is indeed a great drama. So glad I ended up watching it.
Thanks to KFG and the group for another satisfying group watch, with a special shout-out to our VIP, BE, whose devotion to the show was palpable in every sentence of every insightful and in-depth post. Here’s to your continued recovery.
This is another show I was unlikely to watch on my own and so the group perspective was greatly appreciated. Although, like Trent, I was not quite as enveloped in the show as many of you, I found much to admire and enjoy. The characterizations and their embodiments were excellent and fully formed throughout, top to bottom and good to bad. Few shows have such a wide range of memorable personalities. To name one more, a tip of the hat to Professor Jo, just for giving us a glimpse of basic decency and professionalism in dealing with students in this disgusting charade for an institute of learning.
The photographic style, the music, and the willingness embrace silence or quiet personal moments lent the drama an artistic cinematic air that I’ve never seen in a Korean drama before, and which heightened the special feel of the show. And the existential crisis facing Hye Won, which has been discussed so eloquently here over the last few months, was presented as honestly as I’ve been in theater of film, in all of its complexity. No easy answers or platitudes here.
And, of course, the music was superb throughout. I think as good a piece to close out this drama as any is the Mozart rondo (A minor, K 511) from the soundtrack itself, nicely played by Kim Sohyung, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_WAjbx1cVE511.
The first things that caught my attention about K Dramas was that they were incredibly literate, they emphasized ensembles in which even minor characters enacted roles with verve and major characters completely disappeared in the skins of their roles, and the way in which they could present tragic situations in a heroic light. If one were to ask me what appeals to me about K Drama, along with the ability to sometimes mashup comedy with drama in an off the wall manner, its general forgiveness of human foible, and its affection for elder characters, that is what appeals to me about this vein of popular artistry.
These qualities will most certainly show up in our watch of My Mister (and I may be in mind of reminding folks of their judgments of Da Mi when we witness the absolutely breathtaking Li Ji An), qualities that for me at least separate K Drama from dramatic presentations elsewhere in the world. The humanity.
I know I am repeating myself, but despite occasional flaws–such as how did the party for Min Woo wind up at Hye Won’s house after the interview or the never quite making clear of how Young Woo escaped prosecution, even with her husband as a lawyer, as he too is in hot water at the end–but Secret Love Affair in every way is a tour de force of the very, very best in K Drama. It is impossible to conceive of a 16 episode drama emerging from any other milieu on the planet. So right off the bat, extreme kudos to Director Ahn Pan Seok and Writer Jung Sung Joo. If we just think of how Director Ahn framed little scenes, such as the one with Joon Hyeong, Young Woo, Secretary Wang, and Dean Kim, the delicious phoniness, pettiness, gestural interchange, in that setting, just the choice of those oversized wine glasses, or the way he would set up Dean Min and Joon Hyeong, the whisperer and the perplexed idiot–just these small bits of direction reveal so much about the careful way he directed the cast in this show.
And the writing, the plot complications, the echoes and rhymes, the thematic power, the characterization, my goodness, Writer Jung Sung Joo, like Da Mi, perhaps in all our faces: how do you live, what do you live for, how can you settle for being mediocre, manipulative, how can you stand for yourself to become someone pitiful when you are so much more than pitiful. What is the nature of true morality? When is love just gonna be a beautiful musical theme number? When isn’t it going to cost awareness, self awareness to stay alive. And what we do when there is a demon whispering in all our ears that if we just have enough money, we can buy our way out of anything, any trouble. How in a corrupt environment such as that foundation, do we live, as Jo In Seo lives, with gentleness and humanity, with relish. Like Da Mi says, “I will believe it when I see it.”
Then, I would like to reiterate my admiration for Park Hyuk Kwon as Professor Kang. Selfless, perfect, totally inhabited. Has villainy ever seemed more banal? And thus, more human? While performed with great nuance and expression, that character is almost a societal archetype. So much so, I could imagine simply saying the name Joon Hyeong would evoke a type of mediocre, self aggrandizing, hopelessly tunnel visioned, petty, conceited, obtuse male or husband as a dramatic type. He does manage to get off one spectacularly (insightful) funny line when he asks Young Woo if she can live “quietly,” and the scenes between Joon Hyeong and Young Woo are thoroughly delicious, the two of them, what characters, Young Woo by the end having somehow become the most sympathetic member of that detestable clan.
And kudos too to Kim Hye Eun, who somehow manages to be ravishingly beautiful and almost completely unattractive throughout. Still, when Young Woo confronts her husband, the completely slimy Prosecutor Kim, as to why he does not care that she is sleeping around with a man half his age, and then if wtf, has he ever liked even a small part of who she is, and all he says is “sorry,” one feels a bit of sympathy for her, the only one who recognizes that perhaps there is more there, there in Hye Won than Mme Han or her father or her husband quite realize, and who is the first of them to understand that what is going on between Hye Won and Seon Jae is that they really are in love with one another. Albeit her growth as a character is somewhat minimal, it occurs, and Kim Hye Eun, not only simply terrific playing off the other members of the cast, manages to tone down her character by the show’s end. And we see in her protest of using Seon Jae as part of Mme. Han’s villainy (talk about a villain–just lying through her teeth on the stand at trial, and doing so with total aplomb) that Young Woo does in fact have soft spot in her heart for young men in a manner that goes beyond mere lust.
As far as these final two episodes go: I kind of think of them as The Last Temptation of Oh Hye Won. We see, as Seon Jae fears he sees, Hye Won almost hypnotized by her own ability to win out against the whole mess of them. As she says in her courtroom soliloquy, the temptation to see herself as a tool for her own success. K, you remarked about her cool in some of these scenes being oddly out of place, but in fact it strikes me this was so much Hye Won in character, using her skills, her intelligence, her savvy as a kind of clothing she wears, those high fashion clothes, so effing elegant–may I say it again, has there ever been anyone you can think of who wears clothes better than Kim Hee Ae. Yes she was overconfident when it came to the interview, but when it comes to dealing with Prosecutor Kim, that conniving, slime ball kind of guy that gives a bad name to lawyers all over the world, sorry Kim, NOT IN HER LEAGUE! She damn well wants respect, Mme Han. And she does not want to lose everything she has worked so hard to cultivate within herself to gain over decades, the sacrifices she has made, the mud she has waded through. But above all, she wants, one by one by one, all of them who have used and abused her to understand, she is not to be trifled with; she knows where the bodies are buried because she was the one who buried them on their behalf. She must, before any other consideration, bring them down. It’s personal. They made it personal.
Her final temptation then is to become so intoxicated by her own powers, an aren’t they powers we tend to admire in our modern women, a woman who can hold her own in any world, cultivated, sophisticated, successful, brilliant, elegant, artistic–the goddess Seon Jae first fell for. The woman for whom we root, even as we can see there are serious cracks in her facade.
Hye Won even tells the prosecutor, she was tempted. But for Seon Jae. Even before her final victory she tells him she is going to change. He does not believe her, won’t take her bet, but what she is about to do, may do is already on her mind. When she goes out with him on the motorcycle (and now we can imagine those texts–Hye Won in the kitchen drinking the hard stuff, Seon Jae downstairs. Let’s just go out and make a show of ourselves. She puts the bottle down and decides, yes, let’s do that. Once she makes that decision, truth be told, despite Seon Jae’s anxious hours on her behalf, it is all fait accompli. Why would Hye Won at this point want to sit in Mme. Han’s plush chair, why would not that beautiful young man, so passionately devoted to her, so much as much a genius about emotions as he is about playing the piano, indeed the one informing the other, not be far more beckoning: even if as Da Mi says, and we can see in the breaking down of Seon Jae’s faith it will require everything of her. She will have to give up everything.
And she does. And the show does such a wonderful job from there on in. Even her fellow prisoners look down upon her affair with a young man. Hye Won–shave all my hair off then, just don’t kill me. And of course she has to go the final step of letting go–Seon Jae you can forget me. But of course, Seon Jae is not gonna let that happen. That young man understands that making love is more memorable than drinking tea, and after all they have been through, they better darn well live together–heck wouldn’t Hye Won be the perfect dress shop owner–my goodness who would not want her for a buyer of women’s clothing?–and he could go on being a delivery boy. Maybe if he won some competitions, they could go on the road together like Richter, play in country towns, libraries, community centers before audiences even like Da Mi, Jang Ho, the woman who runs the restaurant downstairs, who know nothing about the music, but the music would conquer all.
And Seon Jae, ah we can say he lost his innocence. But don’t we all? And this show a story, a bilungsroman then, about a particular young man who is an artist who loves music that can take your heart out, well, as Hye Won once scolded him, music is more than simple technique or intellectual interpretation. Seon Jae is not a child any more, but a grown man, and what a sweet heart he is too.
What an amazing show!
An addendum about Seon Jae losing his innocence…would that we all had lost our innocence over a great love with an epic personality and a soulful passion.
@BE Just popping in very briefly to say that the reason the farewell party moved to Joon Hyung and Hye Won’s house, is because Joon Hyung and Sun Jae were supposed to attend, but had sent apologies in favor of the interview. So the party moved to Joon Hyung and Hye Won’s house, as a second round of sorts, so that they would get to bid farewell to Min Woo. It’s not explicitly spelled out, but fairly easy to infer, because of the Korean penchant for 2nd or 3rd rounds, when doing gatherings. I hope that helps!
@KFG – That’s a good question for Dear Kfangurl. Why? I understand when they want to go to a karaoke bar but other than that – why leave one bar just to go for rounds at another? Do they have different types of drinks at one establishment from another? (I’ve never been much of a drinker but in my limited experience, I’ve never had a bartender tell me they don’t have whatever I ordered.)
I pretty much got that thanks, and you are probably correct that I was missing cultural context, for which a line of dialogue would have provided my foreign sensibility the clarifying information.
Despite being so many hours in length, even the show’s tendency to elide info here and there (certainly dealing with the likely wide antipathy to the family business—as a popular entertainment this required enormous artistry to make work for a television sized audience, not all that different to folks’ impatience with the corrupt politics in sageuks, from a dramatic point of view led show runners to particular choices) gives the whole a rather sense of stage play rather than film—especially so in the courtroom scene, for which Hye Won’s redemption trumps legalisms or even bringing to bear verdicts and punishments.
In any case, as we have discussed, in shows one really likes, flaws are a bit of so what? In those we do not like they stand out as the proverbial sore thumb.
Should I try Lost?
be, i can not let it slide, your comparison of li ji an to da-mi. li ji an is a broken bird with most beautiful feathers, that’s the difference. and i will not elaborate, as i do not want to slip into spoilers.
i do not see it like this at all (of course), but will not go there until we start watching it together i am sure we’ll have plenty opportunities to “butt heads” (i’ll try to be gentle).
While discussing similarities/differences between these two characters can be justified (no specifics to avoid spoilers), I hope not too much time will be spent on comparing our Ji An to such an insignificant character as Da Mi.
Li Ji An is the Hye Won of My Mister, its central female lead.
First, when a 40+ woman is contemplating an affair with a 20 yo boy, she doesn’t need any Da Mis to feel insecure.
Second, in real life people can’t preserve their ‘beautiful innocence’ forever. And they are not supposed to. Sooner or later, when people see injustices, evil, diseases, etc., and they grow up emotionally. Hopefully they grow up strong enough to handle life. Also, I believe that Sun Jae is Hye Won’s moral compass, not Da Mi. He was the one who changed her.
And there is one more thing: you think I have an adverse reaction to Da Mi, because I don’t understand her. I believe I understand her well enough. I do feel sorry for her because of her difficult life and one sided love, and I do cut her the slack and forgive her, but I still wouldn’t not want to be anywhere near her. Sorry, not interested. Not my cup of tea. That’s totally opposite to how I feel about Ji An (no specifics).
The good thing is that this damn Da Mi distracts me from the sadness I feel about this discussion being over, and from that fact that we will not be talking any more about this show in general and Sun Jae and Hye Won’s relationship in particular.
@BE – First of all 👋 *waves*. Second, I had issues with Ji an in My Mister (Although I can’t remember specifically what she did to Our Mister to make me dislike her 😊) But also she has a very negative energy that I associate with IU from My Mister and other roles.
“But also she has a very negative energy”
See? That’s exactly what I mean: that’s how I feel about Da Mi. No matter how many excuses I can make for her behavior (if I use totally rational approach), seeing her on screen gives me hives. Although, I still can’t excuse certain things she did, like “begging for kisses”, or getting into other people business, or… Nope.
On the other hand, I don’t feel any negative energy, when I see Ji An. And I can make excuses for her all day long.
I think it’s great that we get emotional and irrational about these characters. I think that’s what creators of the shows wanted us to do. It’s better, that being 100% analytical and objective.
After all, it’s not like we are attending math classes.
Well, Hye Won certainly had a different take on Da Mi, and I am with Hye Won. And believe me the scene in which Hye Won imagines Seon Jae rolling around with Da Mi or when she sees the two of them come out of his apartment sets her insecurity ablaze.
No one would diminish Seon Jae’s role in awakening Hye Won, but Da Mi throws it in the light of wtf are you doing to this innocent soul, and I will believe it when I see it.
Kim Hee Ae’s Hye Won is my favorite single character in K Drama. But what makes her truly great is the final episode when she takes it to the very limit.
Personally I do not get the animus to Da Mi at all. I do not pity her; I think she is by and large a pretty admirable young person with pretty admirable values. Her one flaw is being so tunnel visioned about Seon Jae, but on that score show me a twenty year old in love for the first time who is not.
I should add the wtf is HW doing with this innocent soul is a question many if not most viewers are in line with for at least the first few episodes.
I didn’t realize SLA discussion is still going on.
Hye Won did have insecurities, but in those two instances it wasn’t insecurity. It was old, plain jealousy. Think of a woman, watching a guy she likes, hugging and spending Friday night with another woman. Or seeng the scratches. You think she’d shrug this off, as long as the three of them are of the same age? I doubt it. Sun Jae saw it the same way, which was very perceptive of him.
I also do not pity Da Mi. And I could agree that she is by and large a pretty admirable young person with pretty admirable values. But to me, her minor function in this show and her moral superiority are not worth the irritation her presence causes. How significantly any relationship in this show would’ve changed (romantic or not), if Da Mi weren’t in it? Not at all.
I think we need to learn to live with the fact that you like Da Mi, and I don’t. 😊
i have seen a lot of female leads of different characters, different levels of performing, different ages and so on –
NONE OF THEM were or are hae won. sorry. unless you mean that li ji an is simply the main character like hae won in SLA. then that’s true.
True! These two are very different people.
I also see the similarities in the two characters and I’m sorry but I’ll be excited to explore the similarities during the My Mister group watch. 😉
Looking forward to our discussion.
What I mean is that she is show’s protagonist;
mariaf, good idea, agree. but it’s difficult when somebody brings it up, but i myself will try to resist the temptation.
A major difference besides the very real differences in age, class, and personal power is that we see Hye Won at the beginning through Seon Jae’s eyes, rather than being left a bit clueless in our introduction to Li Ji An. But no doubt, Li Ji An from the get go will be the fl.
This story of this forbidden romance ended as it began, from SJ “locked in” a practice room learning music to HW locked in a prison cell learning integrity. The obstacles to their romance were insurmountable making the sublte tension and suspense rise as the story unfold unforgettable. I now understand why it is a masterpiece.
I have to admit that I didn’t find the plot about the money and the wealthy people interesting at all. That was too tedious for me, but I didn’t mind seeing SJ’s world. I liked the behind-the-scenes life about developing a classical-music artist and the muscial politics at the foundation. I would prefer more scenes that expanded upon the intimacy and depth of the bond between SJ & HW.
The teacher-pupil roles constantly bounced to-and-fro between SJ & HW adding intrigue and balance. SJ at the party versus HW on trial was another back-and-forth, but it seemed to me that SJ always suffered more. Perhaps it was his youthful innocence that allowed is angst to be more transparent than HW’s subdued, muted demeanor but I would have liked more indication that they were really on equal footing with each other at the end of the story.
No music together was the saddest part of this ending. That would have cemented SJ playing Rondo everyday to think of her. I wanted a scene of them playing piano together one last time as this was a “key” aspect of their story.
Their “walking date” was an exhilarating. They were together, outdoors, in public, moving about freely and it seemed like a place where the story could have ended….perhaps with a time skip to a bar in NYC where SJ & HW performing “Piano Man” on dueling pianos, heh, heh–just kidding! 😉
Thanks to all my fellow fans and KFG for sharing your thoughts.
I will definitely post tomorrow in the AM. But I want to thank you K, as I did in an e, for letting us go together on this remarkable journey. For me reseeing it was to see it in so much greater depth than my two preceding watches, right down to the thoughtfulness of the final scenes–Seon Jae’s immaculately clean, duct taped floor, Hye Won, bordering on some sort of spiritual ecstasy staring out through the chain link fence at the field of weeds largely gone to seed. From the perspective of artistic composition, let alone the human story and its themes, Secret Love Affair to me has to be The single most remarkable piece of work I have ever seen in a television series.
Ah, what are we going to do with the rest of our lives?
Let me just say I appreciate and admire this show and the performances of the actors, particularly the leads, but I don’t think I ever felt as passionately absorbed or deeply captured by it as many of my fellow group-watchers.
That said, I loved this ending, and I think felt as emotionally engaged by these two episodes as pretty much any that had gone before. As our couple was just walking hand in hand down the neighborhood street, I could feel the emotional power of their connection just more viscerally than almost anything up to that point, save perhaps their dual performances at the same piano bench.
And I loved Hye-won’s bravery–first to stand up to her corrupt opposition, determined and confident of beating them at their own game, and then to give up that world and gladly take the consequences as the first step on the path to redemption.
(Although it doesn’t truly matter, I suppose, I would have liked to see both how long her sentence was, and to find out how long the rats she took down with her received as a sentence).
A very fine show, though, and a really lovely use of classical music.
@Trent: I think HW got 10 years (seems like a lot to me for someone who was the tool but not the major beneficiary of her crimes); show does not mention what happened to the others.