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.