Side dish: An episode like this needs something bitter to match. Try the goya champru at Ryoji Ramen, made with bitter melon, scrambled eggs, tofu and pork belly. It’s bitter, but also satisfying.
While music professor, Kang Joon Hyung (Park Hyuk Kwon) is fussily wiping his hands with a tissue in his car, his wife, Oh Hye Won (Kim Hee Ae) remains in the mouse infested apartment of piano prodigy, Lee Sun Jae (Yoo Ah In).
Sun Jae brings soybean oil to get the remnants of a mouse glue trap off Hye Won’s foot. He attempts to administer the oil, but Hye Won instantly pulls away, insisting that she do it herself. Sun Jae watches awkwardly until he hears his girlfriend, Park Da Mi (Kyung Soo Jin) and friend, Son Jang Ho (Choi Tae Hwan) entering the apartment. He rushes to the entrance, pushing Da Mi and Jang Ho back outside, and closing the door in their faces. Sun Jae wipes his hands on his pants before kneeling down and carefully arranging Hye Won’s high heel shoes.
Hye Won asks if his friends were at the door, and Sun Jae says they have left. Hye Won is busily using the soybean oil, but she notices that Sun Jae is nervous, and wonders what happened to his previous boldness. Sun Jae apologizes, initially for his boldness then for his shaking.
Hye Won expresses regret at coming, but Sun Jae objects, then fumbles for words. She laughs at how unintelligible he is, and he beats a hasty retreat to fetch her belongings. It surprises Hye Won that he wants her to leave, but Sun Jae just assumed that she would want to join her husband immediately in the car. Hye Won protests that she has not heard him play. He promises to play for her at her home after the admission meeting tomorrow.
Hye Won stares at Sun Jae as he holds out her coat and bag with eyes downcast. She finally takes her belongings, and directs him to call before coming. Sun Jae prompts Hye Won for her phone number, and she tells him to call her husband. He persists, and Hye Won points out that Joon Hyung is his teacher. Sun Jae bluntly states that Joon Hyung is not his teacher, Hye Won is his teacher; it was fated with their first meeting.
Hye Won seems alarmed yet intrigued by Sun Jae’s words. Sun Jae explains that he comes in contact with strangers all the time as a courier, but Hye Won showed interest in him and they played piano together. Sun Jae felt reborn on that day.
Hye Won laughs in disbelief at Sun Jae’s admission. She wonders if he is dying of embarrassment, but Sun Jae earnestly insists that he is being sincere. Hye Won is taken aback, and left speechless.
Downstairs, Jang Ho is telling Sun Jae’s mom and Da Mi about the professor’s visit to her home. Mom is hopeful that their fortunes will change with Sun Jae’s. They hear Hye Won and Joon Hyung’s car pull away, but run outside too late to bid the professor and his wife goodbye. Mom protests this social snub whereas Da Mi physically attacks Sun Jae. Sun Jae pushes his girlfriend off him and stomps back to his room. Da Mi screams at his receding back that he better not dump her after getting accepted into college.
Back in his room, Sun Jae automatically contacts his instant messaging friend who helped diagnose his hand injury, to gush about meeting Hye Won. Unbeknownst to Sun Jae, his friend is not an unemployed 25 year old man, but Hye Won herself. Hye Won suspects Sun Jae’s true identity then confirms it. She laughs incredulously, but continues the conversation. Her amusement turns to apprehension as Sun Jae piles compliments on Hye Won then admits to having fallen for her; even her feet are attractive. Hye Won self-consciously examines her feet.
Hye Won can’t help but ask Sun Jae to elaborate on his attraction towards her. Sun Jae focuses on her scent. Hilariously, Hye Won frowns as she sniffs her hand until her lack of response is noted by Sun Jae. Sun Jae turns poetic again, claiming that Hye Won has captured his heart, body and soul.
Sun Jae asks his online friend if he has ever played Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasie” with a girl. He “literally climaxed” while playing the piano with Hye Won. Admittedly, this is all conjecture, because he is a virgin (!). Yet, Sun Jae is sure that not even sex could beat the moment he shared with Hye Won. I suppose that would explain the post-coital panting when Sun Jae and Hye Won stopped playing.
Hye Won abruptly disconnects from the conversation, then appraises herself in the reflection of a tablet.
While Joon Hyung sleeps, Hye Won paints the toe nails of the feet that Sun Jae so admired. She examines her foot with a mirror, trying to see what Sun Jae saw.
Hye Won gets into bed; it turns out that she and her husband sleep in separate beds like siblings or Bert and Ernie. She restlessly sits up in bed, looking over at her sleeping husband. Hye Won then returns to the washroom to remove the nail polish from her toes.
Jung Yoo Ra (Jin Bo Ra) plays the piano under the critical scrutiny of a dissatisfied male teacher. The teacher is called out into the hallway by Joon Hyung, and they commiserate about having to suffer untalented yet well connected students for the money they provide to support the talented students. At that moment, one of the rich parents appears, and Joon Hyung and the teacher beam as they reassure her that her daughter should gain admission if she does not make a mistake.
Meanwhile, Hye Won is in a lunch meeting with SeoHan Arts Foundation CEO, Han Sung Sook (Shim Hye Jin) and Dean Min (Kim Chang Wan) to discuss the admission of less talented yet wealthy students, which is supported by everyone except Professor Jo (Park Jong Hoon). They are protected from accusations of corruption by the admission of the impoverished Sun Jae. Dean Min is convinced that not even Professor Jo will object to Sun Jae. Sung Sook tells them to bring Sun Jae to her after the admission test, and to make sure her authority is on display. Hye Won smiles agreeably.
Jang Ho is eager to get in on the college experience, and joins Sun Jae at the briefing on the exam schedule. However, Jang Ho is more interested in doing a financial breakdown of the clothes and belongings of Yoo Ra, and texts this information to Da Mi. Da Mi asks Jang Ho for assistance in tricking her boss into giving her a day off tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Dean Min is trying to convince Professor Jo to go with the flow, but Professor Jo is still concerned about admission corruption. Joon Hyung loses his temper, protesting that Professor Jo is not the only one dedicated to educational ideals.
Jang Ho takes the sarcastic advice of Da Mi and approaches Yoo Ra. She looks dubiously at him as he talks about Sun Jae and pretends to be a freshman from the drama department. Yoo Ra only shows a modicum of interest when he mentions Sun Jae’s connection with Joon Hyung, but does not hesitate to leave when a chauffeured car drives up. It turns out that her mother is the one Joon Hyung had reassured regarding her daughter’s admission.
Sun Jae receives a text from Hye Won, and is brought by her assistant to a private room for soloists to practice. Even dinner at the cafeteria will be covered by Hye Won.
That evening, Hye Won escorts Sung Sook to her car, begging off the usual spa visit, because she has to check in on Sun Jae. As she walks down the hall, Prof. Jo calls to sing Sun Jae’s praises, having seen his performance video. Hye Won saucily asks if Sun Jae is not better than Prof Jo’s star pupil, Min Woo. Prof. Jo indeed wants Sun Jae, but will not take him away from Hye Won, who he believes is Sun Jae’s true teacher, not her husband. Hye Won laughs this off, claiming only to be the disciplinarian. She admits that Sun Jae is into her, then quickly clarifies their relationship as one between a kid and his first teacher.
Hye Won rounds a corner and discovers that her supervision is needed as a security guard accompanies Sun Jae. It turns out that Sun Jae locked himself out of the private practice room, and is accused of soliciting. Hye Won dismisses the security guard then gives Sun Jae a withering stare as he looks sheepish.
Hye Won is in the process of unlocking the private practice room when it occurs to her to check if Sun Jae has eaten. He has not. Hye Won is annoyed that Sun Jae is not preparing properly for tomorrow morning. She orders Sun Jae to go eat while she rests, and he obediently leaves for the cafeteria. Alone in the practice room, Hye Won can’t help chuckling to herself.
Sun Jae returns to the practice room after dinner, and finds Hye Won asleep on a couch. Sun Jae puzzles over how to remove Hye Won’s shoe from her dangling foot, for reasons unknown. The security guard watching on the monitor is not sure what he is doing either.
Sun Jae succeeds in removing one of her shoes just as Hye Won is woken up by a call. It turns out to be the security guard checking in on this bizarre scene. Hye Won reassures the security guard then sharply questions Sun Jae about his actions while she was asleep, pointing out the security camera. As she speaks, those very actions are being reviewed on tape by the security guard who marvels at how weird Sun Jae is. Sun Jae lamely attempts to explain why he removed her shoe, before escaping to the piano instead. Hye Won briefly considers revealing the true identity of Sun Jae’s online friend.
Meanwhile, Da Mi has managed to convince her boss that her mother has died, in order to get the next day off so that she can accompany Sun Jae to his admission exam. Since her mother died a while ago, it is a convenient and oft used excuse for absenteeism. Da Mi and Sun Jae’s mother wonder where he is.
Sun Jae is still practicing piano under the watchful eye of Hye Won, until she decides to fetch a stick, and tap it menacingly on the floor. Sun Jae stops playing as Hye Won upbraids him for his poor posture. Assuming that the stick is for discipline, Sun Jae is amenable to being beaten. Hye Won tells him to take off his belt, and he asks if she’s going to beat him naked (!) though he does not seem adverse to the idea. Hye Won accuses him of perverted thoughts without clarifying her intentions.
Sun Jae looks pointedly at his crotch before struggling with his belt. Hye Won then insert the stick down the back of his shirt, presumably to the seat of his pants. Hye Won is explaining the method behind the torture when Joon Hyung walks in. Sun Jae attempts to get up to greet Joon Hyung, and gets snapped at by Hye Won. Joon Hyung is amused and approves of his wife’s old fashioned methods; he takes over guiding Sun Jae, as Hye Won laughs to herself on the couch.
After exiting the practice room, Joon Hyung offers to drive Sun Jae home, but Sun Jae turns it down, and runs off. When he returns home, Sun Jae goes straight to the punching bag on the roof of his house to work off his embarrassment at being accused by Hye Won of having dirty thoughts. For the most part, he ignores his mother, only addressing her when he can’t find the hand warmers. Sun Jae retires to his bed in a huff after learning that his mother threw them out. His mother tearfully protests that she tried her best while raising him, not even selling the piano in order to keep him away from the arcade. Sun Jae irritably dismisses his mother.
The next morning, Sun Jae is getting ready when he finds out that his mother has gone out first thing in the morning to get him hand warmers. Sun Jae is scolding his mother, and when she fails to respond, it becomes clear that something has happened to her.
It is worth noting that as the scene switches to the college campus, discordant classical music begins playing in the background. Attendance is being taken for the admission auditions, and Sun Jae is absent.
The admission judges arrive in the theatre. Professor Jo amicably tells Joon Hyung that he is looking forward to watching Sun Jae play, and Joon Hyung downplays how important this moment is to him. Of course, Sun Jae’s admission means everything to Joon Hyung for the prestige the student will bring him, and to Hye Won and her allies, Dean Min and Sung Sook, for the protection he will provide the school from charges of admission corruption.
When it is revealed that Sun Jae has not appeared, and is at risk of being disqualified, Hye Won angrily calls Sun Jae. However, she cannot reach him, nor can she find anyone at his home.
As Sun Jae’s disqualification is announced and made official, the judges are quick to attribute this failure to flaws in Sun Jae’s character. Only Professor Jo suggests that Sun Jae might have been in an accident to a stony faced Joon Hyung.
Seo Young Woo (Kim Hye Eun), Hye Won’s crazy boss is taunting her about the loss of her sole protection against accusations of admission corruption, when Hye Won’s assistant runs in announcing that she has found Sun Jae. They find Sun Jae alone at his mother’s funeral; Da Mi is outside wailing about feeling guilty for the death of Sun Jae’s mother as a result of superstition, and Jang Ho reminds her that Sun Jae feels even worse. Hye Won loses her nerve and lets her assistant face Sun Jae. Joon Hyung’s assistant is also there in his boss’s stead to pat Sun Jae on the arm, and offer words of comfort.
The classical music continues to play as the coffin rolls into the furnace to be cremated. Sun Jae watches, sobbing and slapping the glass barrier with only his girlfriend and friend beside him.
In the next scene, Sun Jae has sold his piano as Da Mi and Jang Ho object. The man taking the piano away offers to sell it back to Sun Jae should he change his mind, but Sun Jae simply shrugs, feigning indifference.
Meanwhile, Joon Hyung angrily dismisses Sun Jae, telling his wife to give up on him since he has decided to waste his youth by enlisting in the army. Hye Won remains silent.
It appears that Sun Jae has opted for a civil service posting in a government office, putting up posters, handing out mail, and being bullied into doing overtime by his supervisor. He receives a package from Hye Won, which he takes back to his dormitory, and rips open to find a book about renowned pianist, Sviatoslav Richter with sentences underlined that echo Sun Jae’s love of piano. Sun Jae breaks down into tears.
Hye Won is summoned by crazy Young Woo to a private party room to “audition” some young men, one of whom turns out to be Jang Ho, who has styled himself as ‘Justin’. Hye Won tolerates the introductions then asks everyone to give her and Young Woo privacy. When Young Woo ignores her, Hye Won breaks a bottle and waves it threateningly at the men. When Young Woo threatens her in turn, Hye Won throws the bottle aside in exasperation.
Hye Won lectures Young Woo about ethics and morality, to which Young Woo predictably responds by telling her to shove it. Hye Won points out that her stepmother, Sung Sook is simply going to use this latest debauchery against her, and team up with Young Woo’s husband who has taken possession of her passport as a result of last month’s antics. However, Young Woo feels safe with the dirt she has on Sung Sook and her husband.
Hye Won tells her to get rid of the boyfriend that she has paid for, but, truthfully, Young Woo doesn’t care for him either. He is simply a distraction from her loneliness. Hye Won regards Young Woo with annoyance then throws back a shot before advising Young Woo to get some professional help. Young Woo quietly admits that Hye Won is the only one she can depend on.
A drunken Young Woo is led by two men to her car as she pitifully wails for Hye Won. Hye Won supervises then advises Young Woo’s boyfriend to stay away if he does not want trouble. She then directs the driver to take Young Woo home, having told her husband that they have been out drinking together. Hye Won then gets into her car with a substitute driver.
Hye Won is exhausted, but chats with the driver who expresses her gratitude for Hye Won’s repeat business. Hye Won gives thanks in kind, then tips the driver extra.
Hye Won drags herself out of the car, and is closing the garage door when Sun Jae calls out. Hye Won opens the garage door back up to find Sun Jae. As Sun Jae approaches, Hye Won is visibly relieved to see him, and remarks that he looks different, asking if he has grown. Sun Jae concedes that he has changed.
Hye Won asks him about the book she sent, and Sun Jae admits to reading only the parts that she had underlined, but it shook him up. That was exactly Hye Won’s intention, as she didn’t want his talent to go to waste.
However, Sun Jae claims to be doing well, and asks Hye Won not to send any more books. Hye Won instantly calls out his lie, and Sun Jae readily admits to it; he is resigned to the fact that his life is hell. Hye Won strokes his cheek in sympathy, and Sun Jae stiffens while telling her to stop. Hye Won stares with a troubled look on her face before Sun Jae grabs her in an embrace, confesses to being driven crazy then follows it up with a kiss.
When they break apart, Hye Won suggests they go inside the house and closes the garage door.
I think this is the first time I have heard of any reference to orgasms in a K-drama – thank you, Sun Jae. As entertaining as Sun Jae is, between the nervous fumbling and flowery admissions of his feelings, it was hard to see him as anything more to Hye Won than a good ego boost. His boyish crush on Hye Won along with his sulky dismissal of his mother and girlfriend, just smacks of unappealing teenage hormones.
However, at least Sun Jae’s intentions are clear; Hye Won’s aims are murkier. Both she and her husband were eager to encourage Sun Jae when he offered unadulterated benefits to both of them, though, Hye Won appeared sincere in her support of Sun Jae’s talent. Then, Hye Won was noticeably absent when Sun Jae needed her most; both she and her husband were quick to let their assistants face Sun Jae in their stead at his mother’s funeral. And, when Sun Jae started self-destructing in the aftermath of his mother’s death, Hye Won seemed to simply give up.
In the span of a single episode, Hye Won has been tainted by her failure to support Sun Jae, and by her active collusion with Sung Sook, Dean Min and her husband to hide admission rigging for financial gain. Even her interaction with crazy Young Woo reflected badly on her, as Young Woo made herself vulnerable, and Hye Won looked cold and calculating in comparison.
I suppose two key plot devices in this episode are supposed to redeem both Sun Jae and Hye Won. The sudden death of Sun Jae’s mother does bring about a convenient catalyst for maturity in Sun Jae. And, Hye Won reached out to Sun Jae by sending him a book that demonstrated her understanding of his emotions.
I’m still enjoying myself, but only if I sit back and enjoy Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In’s impassioned acting, and I don’t think too hard about the characters and the writers’ cheap manipulations.
Secret Love Affair (밀회)