Side dish: Hye Won is so busy that the only thing I remember her eating is celery and apples. She should have her housekeeper make some Apple Raisin Salad (Korean banchan). I’ve never had this dish, but it’s one of the top search results when you type ‘Korean’ and ‘apple’ into a search engine so it won’t take Hye Won any time at all to discover a new way to enjoy one of her staples. Recipe courtesy of Rabbitcancook. If Hye Won does not expand her cuisine, next week’s recipe will be for Ants on a Log.
Oh Hye Won (Kim Hee Ae) leads courier and possible musical prodigy, Lee Sun Jae (Yoo Ah In) into a room in her house with a baby grand piano. Her husband, Kang Joon Hyung (Park Hyuk Kwon) is looking for a protégé, and has asked for her assessment of Sun Jae’s talent.
Hye Won invites Sun Jae to sit down and start playing, but he sheepishly remains standing. She incredulously asks if he does not know why he’s here. Sun Jae knows it has to do with yesterday, when he played a concert piano without permission, and was overheard by an impressed Joon Hyung who prevented him from getting caught.
Hye Won will decide whether Sun Jae will be turned over to the police based on his performance. Left without a choice, Sun Jae sits down, and comes face to face with a microphone and a video camera. Hye Won wants proof of his talent.
Sun Jae sits gulping air while Hye Won repeatedly prompts him to begin. Hye Won finally loses patience, and gets up, saying she can’t cater to kids like him. Just as her hand reaches the door handle, Sun Jae begins to play, and Hye Won turns around in shock.
Sun Jae continues to play passionately as Hye Won draws closer. She regards the delinquent with a mixture of alarm and concern, but is soon drawn into the music. He stops suddenly at the exact point where he ceased playing yesterday, a little out of breath.
Hye Won quickly regains her composure and notes that Sun Jae plays very freely. She asks him if he ignores sheet music, but Sun Jae was only trying to compensate for the absence of a partner in a composition meant for two pianists. He only replayed what he had overheard from a performance by a professor and student at Hye Won’s college.
Sun Jae offers to play Hye Won something else he heard and memorized. The next song is quieter, and Hye Won notices that Sun Jae fails to use the pedals. Sun Jae then switches suddenly to a faster tune, his fingers skipping over the keys. Listening on the sofa behind Sun Jae, Hye Won silently exclaims and cries to herself in amazement.
Meanwhile, Sun Jae’s mother (Lee Kan Hee) and girlfriend, Park Da Mi (Kyung Soo Jin) are still ignorant of his whereabouts and speculate if he has gotten a new job. An unidentified male suggests that Sun Jae is cheating on Da Mi, which she instantly denies.
Seo Han Arts Foundation CEO Seo Young Woo (Kim Hye Eun) finds out that Hye Won has taken the day off and has a fit at the messenger, Hye Won’s assistant. She stalks in her villainous leopard skin pants to her stepmother, Han Sung Sook’s (Shim Hye Jin) office, and confirms that Sung Sook was the one who told Hye Won not to come in, because Young Woo would be in a bad mood due to the security breach at the gala the night before. Young Woo calls her stepmother a concubine, and Sung Sook corrects her, crowning herself as the queen. The two women do more pissing over territory at the Foundation and College.
Young Woo is stomping away from Sung Sook’s office when she has a flash of inspiration, and decides to invade Hye Won’s house. She rudely sweeps past the housekeeper, disregarding the proffered slippers, and goes searching for Hye Won before the housekeeper reveals that her mistress is with a student.
Even Young Woo is brought to a halt when she opens the door and comes upon Sun Jae playing his heart out. Hye Won quietly pushes Young Woo back outside to prevent Sun Jae from being interrupted. Young Woo instantly assumes the worst, accusing Hye Won of selling admission to the college. Hye Won dismisses Young Woo like the spoiled brat that she is, then runs back into the music room, locking the door. Young Woo continues to scream paranoid accusations of everyone working against her.
Young Woo may be crazy, but she is crazy with clout. As she leaves Hye Won’s house, she calls Hye Won’s husband, Joon Hyung, who tells Dean Min Yong Ki (Kim Chang Wan) that they have been summoned by Young Woo. Dean Min in turn calls Sung Sook, who is exasperated at how predictable her stepdaughter is.
Turns out that Young Woo may be right about everyone working against her, because Joon Hyung, Dean Min, Young Woo’s sister-in-law, and a fourth man are plotting ways to undermine her influence on admissions. The group plays a political game, admitting students from influential families, while trying to maintain appearances. Joon Hyung is still hoping to get Sun Jae in, and sneaks a text to his wife to check in on the audition. However, Hye Won is in no condition to respond as Sun Jae is still playing at the piano while she listens in a state of bliss.
After plotting against Young Woo, Joon Hyung meets her in a private party room, where she claims that his wife is selling admissions. Truthfully, Young Woo does not really believe her own accusation, but is hoping to take out her stepmother, Sung Sook and Dean Min with the scandal. She appeals to the old alliance she used to have with Joon Hyung and Hye Won, and says she will spare them from her vengeance if he gives her the list of all the students being admitted based on family connections.
Of course, there is no such list to incriminate anyone. And, the pianist that Young Woo found at Joon Hyung’s house has no connections nor money. Joon Hyung speaks honestly that he wants to mentor someone with genuine talent, thus doing his position justice for once. Still, Young Woo wonders if Joon Hyung is just worried about his rival, Professor Jo advancing instead of him.
Joon Hyung resorts to calling the housekeeper, because he cannot reach his wife. It turns out that Hye Won has been holed up all day in the music room, listening to Sun Jae play. He tells the housekeeper not to disturb them, and is about to rush home when Young Woo kicks him in the shins. She then throws a drink in Joon Hyung’s face, claiming that they’re working together on a coup. Young Woo’s winsome ways fail to convince Joon Hyung to join her side, so she resorts to blackmail, threatening to leak the admissions corruption to his rival Professor Jo.
To speed along Joon Hyung’s loyalty to her, Young Woo calls Professor Jo’s home. Joon Hyung struggles to take her phone away from her, and gets bitten then smacked for his efforts. Joon Hyung need not have worried, because Professor Jo had no intention of taking a call from Young Woo, and he and his wife listen to the fighting between Young Woo and Joon Hyung in disbelief.
The great thing about Young Woo giving in to every violent urge is that once she has unburdened herself, she feels free to drunkenly sing karaoke while dirty dancing with her next one night stand. A cowed Joon Hyung watches from the couch, but he is thinking about Dean Min’s scheme to admit a few talented students in order to camouflage the rest of the well-connected ones.
Sun Jae has finally stopped playing, and asks if Hye Won would like him to continue. She only tells him to go and that he is forgiven. Sun Jae stops her to ask for her assessment of his playing. Hye Won can only repeat her words, because she is exhausted from concentrating on his playing. She is incredulous that he does not know the quality of his playing.
Sun Jae started playing piano when he was six. Locked up at home while his mother went to work, Sun Jae played on a discarded piano, taking neighbourhood lessons while in elementary school, and now, taking his cues from YouTube. He also downloads sheet music and plays them repeatedly until he has them memorized. It is all very impressive, but Hye Won still refuses to compliment Sun Jae, asking him what he wants. Sun Jae requests that they play the song for four hands together.
They both become completely absorbed and sympatico as their hands dance along the keys. The exertion when they finally finish leaves them both in a post-coital glow. Hye Won gets up first. Sun Jae stands up, watching her leave, until Hye Won returns and pinches his cheek, saying that this is the best sign of approval that she can give. She tells him to go home, but then directs the housekeeper to feed him before she retreats to her bedroom. By herself, Hye Won can finally admit how impressed she is with the self-taught Sun Jae.
Sun Jae runs down the street at night, Hye Won’s faint praise still echoing in his ear. He stops over a bridge, remembering when Hye Won asked him to repeat a movement, just because she wanted to hear it again. Sun Jae can’t stop grinning, then begins to mime playing the movement on the railing of the bridge.
Meanwhile, Hye Won is sitting on her couch with a warm drink, staring at her baby grand piano, thinking back to Sun Jae saying he did not like to use the pedals. That choice is his interpretation of the composition.
Next, both Sun Jae and Hye Won are playing on the bridge railing. The scene is a little strange, but we’ll just assume that this signals the start of a beautiful friendship…with benefits. Even in their respective beds, both Sun Jae and Hye Won can’t stop thinking about playing piano together.
The next morning, Hye Won is dictating a busy agenda over the phone. When she is done, Joon Hyung asks her to request an additional admission spot for Sun Jae. Hye Won does not think it is necessary. Given Sun Jae’s talent, even Professor Jo will support his admission. The mention of his rival causes Joon Hyung to have a tantrum. Hye Won tells him that they can talk later.
Hye Won meets Sung Sook at the beauty spa where she has just finished getting made up. Hye Won passes Da Mi in the hallway, and surprises the lowly spa employee by greeting her by name.
In the car on the way to a meeting with the press, Sung Sook hands over to Hye Won a recording of the conversation between Young Woo and Joon Hyung from the night before. The worst part is when Young Woo recalls Joon Hyung saying that Hye Won was nothing when he married her. However, Hye Won decides to focus on the fact that the recording indicates that Young Woo is scheming with Professor Jo. Hye Won proposes that Sun Jae is exactly the antidote to the brewing admission corruption scandal. Back at home, Hye Won reassures her whiny husband that plans are in the works to allow him to use one of Young Woo’s admission spots for Sun Jae.
Sun Jae drives home on his motorbike with Da Mi riding on the back. Da Mi is pissed that Sun Jae left her worried about his whereabouts the night before. However, Sun Jae is obviously still happy from his marathon piano session the day before, and hugs both his girlfriend and mother saying, “I love you”, much to the alarm of both women. Sun Jae climbs to the roof of his building, still grinning over Hye Woo’s pinch of approval.
Sung Sook makes her move against Young Woo by revealing to her husband, the Foundation Chairman (Kim Yong Gun), the admission corruption scandal, and embroiling Young Woo in it. After scolding everyone, Chairman tells Sung Sook and Hye Won to leave to room so that he may upbraid his daughter in private. However, it turns out that the Chairman is just encouraging a fight between his daughter and wife as a form of tough love, and he does not really believe Young Woo’s involvement. He dismisses her while telling her to learn from the two foxes, Sung Sook and Hye Won.
Regardless of what her father may wish, subtle subterfuge is not Young Woo’s strong suit, and she throws objects at Hye Won back at her office, blaming her for not refusing to do favours for applicants, because Young Woo could not possibly refuse her boyfriend’s niece. Hye Won points out that Young Woo is married. Young Woo then accuses Hye Won of her own admission corruption, but Hye Won denies any wrongdoing, stating that Sun Jae is better than Young Woo can even imagine.
Sun Jae meets Joon Hyung at a swanky lounge, and returns the clothing he borrowed in order to escape detection at the concert hall. Joon Hyung is grateful for that fateful day, because it brought them together. He then directs Sun Jae to apply to his college, and not to worry about tuition. Sun Jae looks suitably hopeful.
Hye Won is having dinner with her former high school classmates, one of whom is Professor Jo’s wife. They gossip about the sad state of Young Woo and her boyfriend. Admittedly, says one of her companions, their lives are not so great. All three women commiserate, though two out of three agree that they envy Hye Won’s life the most, minus her high maintenance husband. Mrs. Jo wonders why Joon Hyung is fooling around with Young Woo, but Hye Won cannot even get angry, because both she and her husband depend on Young Woo for their livelihood, even before they were married.
Professor Jo shows up unexpectedly to join the women for drinks, and he asks who it is that Joon Hyung is boasting about. Hye Won reveals that it was the intruder at the music gala, and eagerly shows off a video of Sun Jae playing.
At a vocational high school, Sun Jae approaches a teacher to request graduation so that he may apply for college. Da Mi marches in and calls bullshit on whatever Sun Jae is saying. She tries to drag Sun Jae out, but he stops her, claiming that he is serious. Neither of the teachers present believe that Sun Jae is really going to be admitted into college, and laugh as they process his high school graduation. Sun Jae calls Joon Hyung, asking him to confirm with the doubting teacher his college admission. After speaking with Joon Hyung, the teacher is sober as he prints out Sun Jae’s college application. Da Mi is distressed as she realizes that Sun Jae is serious. Only Sun Jae continues to beam.
Joon Hyung is equally over the moon, as he decides to purchase a gift for Sun Jae. Hye Won mocks Joon Hyung’s love for his new student. When they visit Sun Jae, he realizes that Hye Won and Joon Hyung are a married couple for the first time. Inside Sun Jae’s shabby home, Hye Won is amazed to see the soundproof wall that Joon Hyung has created using egg crates, and Joon Hyung marvels at the stacks of downloaded song sheets.
Sun Jae has decided to play Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasie”, which thrills Joon Hyung until Hye Won accidentally steps on a mouse glue trap. Realizing there are mice in the apartment, Joon Hyung runs outside in fear, leaving his wife to struggle with the trap still glued to her foot, now causing a burning sensation. Sun Jae eventually pulls the trap off of Hye Won who screams in pain then laughs, prompting her husband to make a reappearance before disappearing again, this time for the safety of his car.
Sun Jae gathers Hye Won up in his arms, and she is in too much pain to object.
The writers are steadily building a convincing scenario for Hye Won’s eventual adultery, and it’s been pretty entertaining in the process.
Her husband, Joon Hyung is a self-absorbed, whiny bitch who never ceases to make her wife’s professional life bleed seamlessly into their personal lives. Her boss, Young Woo is suitably monstrous, being a screechy, violent hussy, and she only serves to showcase how much self-control Hye Won currently has. Undoubtedly, this will contrast nicely with the loss of self-control when Hye Won finally gives in to temptation.
Between home and work hell, it is easy to see why Hye Won will become drawn to Sun Jae’s unadulterated talent, and the way his piano playing makes her feel. I do hope that Sun Jae will grow from the wide-eyed and flustered boy he is to become a more plausible match for Hye Won, aside from the musical talent. Some actual conversation would be nice, in addition to the ecstatic piano playing. However, being only two episodes into a 20 episode series, I still have faith in some sort of character development.
When I’m not busy measuring the path to a scandalous affair, I am entertained by the messy politics at the Foundation. Young Woo may be the obvious villain, but Sung Sook and her allies are just as odious, given their preference for students with connections as opposed to talent. And, it is interesting how Hye Won inhabits such a grey area, neither plotting with colleagues, nor divorcing herself entirely from their activities. The Chairman calls her a little fox, but I wonder how much of her manuvering is intentional, and how much is just her survival instincts kicking in. Regardless, I am glad that this series has stayed away from unnecessary crying and victimhood. Hye Won has been a likeable lead, and that’s a big deal for someone like me, wading into the unfamiliar terrain of melodramas.
Secret Love Affair (밀회)