This episode was really hard to watch, and even harder to write about. Some things took me by surprise, while others were to be expected. Material Queen continues to astonish with it’s attention to detail, especially character depth and nuances that TW-dramas rarely focus on, usually electing to use broad laughs and big tears to leap frog over plot developments. Even when our material queen yearns for and dares to ask for love with even the slimmest of hopes, she discovers that her creed in life isn’t wrong. Sometimes it really is all about the money, and boy is it devastating to see it rear it’s ugly head all over this episode.
Jia Hao is told that someone important to him is waiting to talk to him. Turns out it’s Yi Xian, calling from Paris to inform Jia Hao that she’s graduated and headed back to Taiwan soon. She has a surprise for Jia Hao, and can’t wait to see him. She mentions how she sees his potential and derides shallow people who seek material comfort rather than the worth of someone like Jia Hao. Chu Man, who is outside the window of Jia Hao’s room, hears all of this. Her face falls.
She looks around the market, realizing that perhaps she really can’t come home anymore. She turns around to leave only to find Peter standing before her. He followed her here, understanding why she would come back when she feels so emotionally low right now. He offers to walk her home. Chu Man looks around one more time and they leave. Back at her place, Peter suggests Chu Man take the initiative and go visit her mom tomorrow. Since it’s Chu Man’s birthday, it’s the perfect opportunity for mother-daughter to reunite.
The next day, Chu Man visits her mom at her fancy apartment. As she waits for her mom, Chu Man sees a happy picture of her mom posed with a young Sasha. Her mom walks out, asking if Sasha is cute? She confesses Sasha is not her real daughter. She feels so blessed that God gave her a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, and a wonderful family. Her mom says this very pointedly to Chu Man (warning: do not ruin this for me, is what the underlying message says right off the bat).
They sit down and Chu Man makes the excuse that she was just in the neighborhood so came to visit. She brought her favorite macarons for her mom to try. Chu Man takes out a small hair clip shaped like a star, pretending she’s returning it to Sasha. Her mom sees it and her face freezes. Chu Man pretends that she accidentally grabbed the wrong one. Turns out when she was small, she saw that hair clip that her mom brought back after work one day. Young Chu Man looks at it longingly, and her mom tells her to take it since it’s cheap anyways.
Back at the present, Chu Man explains that when she was small, her mother used this hair clip to tie her hair. She asks if Sasha ever mentioned that Chu Man was an orphan? This hair clip is all her mother left for her. Chu Man asks if her mom has ever seen this hair clip before?
Her mom finally speaks and says that she once had a birth daughter. On her 6th birthday, she gave her daughter an identical hair clip. Then her mom drops the big one. In the calmest of voices, she says that in her mind, that daughter of hers is dead. That daughter represents the biggest stain on her life. By making her daughter disappear, that was the only way she could marry her husband of today, and have the life she has now. If that daughter were to appear once again, that daughter would only ruin her rebuilt life. Chu Man hears this and looks absolutely devastated.
Chu Man’s mom continues, explaining that there are certain memories in life that makes one feel disgusted just thinking about it. Her daughter is such a memory for her. UGH, I KILL YOU EVIL INHUMANE WITCH! Chu Man cannot talk during this speech, until finally she speaks up, telling her mom that she understands. If one day she ran into her mom, she won’t go bother her. Her mom smiles and says that she is happy Chu Man understood what she just said.
She asks Chu Man to leave. As Chu Man walks towards the door, she suddenly turns and asks if her mom can pretend to be her mom just for today and eat the macarons with her? Her mom says she doesn’t like sweets, and tells Chu Man to take the macarons with her as she leaves. Chu Man just looks at her mom with the most anguished expression, and even her mom can see it. She tells Chu Man to stop looking at her with that look in her eyes! She never loved Chu Man, not for one moment. Chu Man bows to her mom and turns to leave, choking back tears that are in her heart but not yet in her eyes.
Outside the building, Chu Man turns and looks back up towards her mom’s apartment. Inside the apartment, her mom lights a cigarette and smokes. Yen Kai Ming’s assistant tells Chu Man that Yen Kai Ming is back and waiting for her at the hotel. Jia Hao is getting ready to perform at the hotel and overhears that Yen Kai Ming is coming shortly.
Chu Man and Yen Kai Ming sit down to dine. He asks her what wine she wants to drink? It’s her birthday and he will do his best to accommodate any wish she has. Chu Man is totally zoned out and doesn’t respond to him. He tells the waiters to leave and asks her if she’s in a bad mood? Yen Kai Ming asks if she’s upset because she saw her birth mom today? Yen Kai Ming heard what she said to Peter yesterday, which shocks Chu Man that he’s wiretapped her apartment.
Jia Hao walks out and listens in on this conversation. Yen Kai Ming tells her not to be upset, everything he does is in their best interests. Yen Kai Ming says he made sure her mother wouldn’t recognize her, because he saw her earlier before Chu Man did and offered her money to never admit that she was Chu Man’s mom. Yen Kai Ming doesn’t want Chu Man’s unsavory background to ever come up. He’s happy that he cut her ties with all her shady past, so now she can enter upper class society without any worry or concern.
Chu Man does not look happy in the least to hear this, as does Jia Hao. Yen Kai Ming warns her that every move she makes from now on, she must get permission from him first. He can’t risk her doing something that the press can get a hold of. He wants to add another provision in the contract she signed earlier – Chu Man has to promise never to go back and reconcile with her mom. Yen Kai Ming knows that she is not happy to sign such a contract, but he wants to build the blueprint of their life together because he wants a future with her. He plans to add provisions to the contract that will protect Chu Man as well, as such she gets the house and the car no matter what happens.
Yen Kai Ming will satisfy every need she has, so she shouldn’t be upset about adding this one provision, right? Chu Man looks down in thought, leading Yen Kai Ming to ask if she doesn’t want a future with him because he added this provision. Chu Man smiles and says this is the life she dreamt about, so why would she say no? Yen Kai Ming is pleased because this is the Lin Chu Man he knows. Suddenly Yen Kai Ming is called away to an emergency meeting. Chu Man tells him to go, they can celebrate her birthday another time.
After Yen Kai Ming leaves, Chu Man’s smile disappears and she leans back in her seat. Jia Hao approaches her and demands to know if she’s happy living this kind of life? He drags her out until finally she makes him stop. He asks why she’s living a life filled with empty things? She tells him it’s not his concern, he should be worried about someone else. Jia Hao grabs her and says that the person he wants to be concerned about is her!
He asks if Yen Kai Ming treats her like this all the time? He thought she got the life she dreamed about, and that she was happy. He thought the next time he saw her, she would be smiling. That was the only reason he let her go. He asks her to just tell him that she’s doing well and it was the right decision for him to let her go. Chu Man tries to say of course, but she cannot even get that lie out of her mouth, struggling to say it time and again. Finally Jia Hao hugs her, telling her that if the answer isn’t what he wants to hear, then it’s fine. When she is with him, she doesn’t have to pretend to be so strong. She cries and asks him to take her away from here.
Jia Hao takes her to the beach. Chu Man apologizes to him, because every time she feels her most vulnerable, somehow she always runs into him. Jia Hao says what Yen Kai Ming did perhaps is the right thing. Having a mom like that, it’s best to treat her like a stranger. Her mom has no right to hurt Chu Man this way. He knows she’s hurt, but she needs to remember that her mom is selfish and it’s not because Chu Man isn’t worthy of love. She will meet more people in the future who loves her.
Since it’s her birthday, he wants to erase the bad memories for her and make new wonderful memories together. His birthday present to her is taking her scuba diving. In the depths of the ocean, Jia Hao shares with Chu Man the feeling that life is equal and beautiful down here.
After they surface and are standing on the beach, Jia Hao asks Chu Man if she can believe in love again. He leans in to kiss her. She allows the kiss until finally she regains her senses and pushes him away. He demands that she be honest with herself, she clearly has feelings for him. Chu Man takes off, telling Jia Hao that she never looks back. Chu Man runs into the Due South market and drops off the scuba gear outside Jia Hao’s house.
Yen Kai Ming arrives outside the famous macaron store that Chu Man loves, which is packed with people with a line out the door. His assistant tries to see if Yen Kai Ming can get special service but is told that everyone has to wait. Yen Kai Ming wants to wait in line himself, because that is the only way to prove this is a genuine gesture for Chu Man. He gets in line and waits with everyone.
Chu Man is tossing and turning in bed, thinking back to Jia Hao and spending time with him yesterday. Yen Kai Ming arrives and she pretends to be asleep. He asks if she’s ignoring him because he left her alone on her birthday. He shows her the macarons he bought her, asking her not to be angry anymore. She explains that she’s not feeling well. Yen Kai Ming assumes she spent the evening at home last night. He tells her to rest, and offers to spend the day with her.
Yen Kai Ming walks out of her room and suddenly looks perturbed. Turns out her saw her high heels in the closet, and a piece of stray vegetable on the sole. His assistant confirms that Chu Man came back in a taxi, and the dispatch from the taxi company said the taxi originated from the Due South Market. The hotel also confirmed that Jia Hao took Chu Man away yesterday from the hotel, and that Jia Hao is the new violinist at the hotel. Yen Kai Ming asks his assistant to schedule a dinner at that hotel tonight. After hanging up, he grips the box of macarons tightly in his hand.
Jia Hao is told that a VIP booked the entire restaurant just to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday. Chu Man is surprised to be back at the same restaurant, and Yen Kai Ming mentions that he heard the violinist here is very good. Chu Man looks concerned, and shark Yen Kai Ming immediately asks if she doesn’t want to come here, or doesn’t feel well, or perhaps this restaurant makes her uncomfortable. She denies it and says she’s happy that he’s making such an effort take make up for her birthday.
Yen Kai Ming explains that return on investment is the most important thing in his life when deciding to do something, except when it comes to Chu Man. With her, he doesn’t want to gauge any value with what he gives her. He wants her to be happy with everything he gives her. All he asks in return is the one thing all couples ask of each other – loyalty and trust. That isn’t too much to ask of her, is it?
Chu Man smiles at him. Yen Kai Ming drags her towards the restaurant, which is when Chu Man confesses that she was with Jia Hao yesterday. She didn’t mean to lie but never found the right time to tell him, knowing he would be upset. He asks if she did anything he would be upset about. She says no, and explains that she made it clear again that she wasn’t interested in him.
Yen Kai Ming asks if what Chu Man is saying is that Jia Hao is the person who refuses to take no for an answer from her? Yen Kai Ming believes that, since the hotel confirmed Jia Hao dragged her out against her will. Yen Kai Ming is happy she confessed what happened, and it was his fault first for ditching her on her birthday. He’s fine with her seeing a friend, but could she tell him beforehand. It would make him feel better. Chu Man is relieved and asks if they can leave now. She apologizes again and asks to spend tonight elsewhere to celebrate properly.
Yen Kai Ming doesn’t want to leave, he wants to have a talk with Jia Hao. Since Jia Hao knows about their relationship and continues to approach Chu Man, then that is a challenge to him. Yen Kai Ming suggests that Jia Hao perhaps should be reminded about accidents that could befall the hands of a gifted violin player, or the market one day getting demolished. OMO. This man is no joke. Chu Man quickly offers a better solution, let a woman handle crushing a man’s heart. She asks Yen Kai Ming to just watch her performance and play along with her. He won’t regret thinking that she is a very intelligent woman. Oh god, I can’t watch this. This is like a horror movie.
Chu Man walks into the restaurant as Yen Kai Ming waits in the foyer. Jia Hao is called to the room to meet the VIP. We see the hand of a man holding a cane that appears to be watching Jia Hao as he walks away. Jia Hao walks up to Chu Man and asks why she is purposely coming here. She asks him to sit down, she has something to give him. She slips a watch on his hand as thanks for yesterday on the beach. He wonders if she’s accepted what he said yesterday?
Her face tightens as she emphatically answers no to his query. She was sad yesterday so was touched by his gesture, but that was it. This watch is thanks for all he’s done for her, and now she owes him nothing. Going forward, they have no past between them and no future before them. Chu Man asks Jia Hao to never bother her again. He thinks her acting is terrible. She says she’s being honest. He’s not good enough for her.
Does he think some coral will change who she is? Or the sea that his dad loves can feed a person? She tells him to wake up and smell reality – all of that is just rubbish to her. Jia Hao doesn’t know why she is suddenly saying this, but he doesn’t want her to insult the beautiful memory he shares with his dad. He declines her present and is about to leave when Chu Man wants him to promise that he will never come bother her again.
Jia Hao cannot make that promise because what if he sees her hurt by Yen Kai Ming again. Chu Man considers dropping her cruel playacting and telling him the truth. She moves to grabs Jia Hao and tries to explain that he if continues to challenge Yen Kai Ming, he’ll find himself…..which is when Yen Kai Ming walks in asking if everything has been dealt with. Chu Man immediately turns bitchy again and warns Jia Hao not to embarrass himself further by continuing to oppose Yen Kai Ming. Chu Man walks over to him and gives Jia Hao a dirty look.
Chu Man calls the manager over, informing the manager that the new violin player here stole Yen Kai Ming’s watch, which he lost at the restaurant the last time he dined here. Jia Hao screams at Chu Man, asking what the heck she’s doing right now! He says she just gave her the watch. Chu Man smiles and coolly says she doesn’t know this violin player, why would she give him the watch? Chu Man says the watch has Yen Kai Ming’s name carved on it.
The manager checks and returns the watch to Yen Kai Ming. Jia Hao is immediately fired but Chu Man calls off the cops. She warns Jia Hao never to approach her again, otherwise she will call the cops. This sabotage incident was to demonstrate emphatically to Jia Hao that she really means it. She doesn’t want him to disrupt her life with Yen Kai Ming. Chu Man tells him to snap out of it, not to let a woman ruin his bright future that so many people have high hopes for. He needs to act like a real man now.
But even if he does, he can never match up to Yen Kai Ming, and she will never choose him. Jia Hao says he heard and understood every word she said. He will leave and she will never see him again. She thanks him, because what he said finally makes her feel great relief. The manager offers to let them spend the night at the hotel. Chu Man says it’s a great idea to spend the night here at the suite.
Jia Hao is dragged away and tossed out. We see a man watching him, said man whose face remains obscured. Upstairs in the hotel, Chu Man looks at the watch and apologizes to it. Jia Hao’s life has already been ruined so much by her, she can’t destroy it any further. Yen Kai Ming walks up to her and gives her a hug. He confesses that he was thinking that perhaps Chu Man’s sabotage of Jia Hao today was actually her attempt to protect him? He knows she doesn’t want to see him hurt, because they are friends.
He thinks her method is smart – it keeps Yen Kai Ming from hurting Jia Hao, and it gets Jia Hao to stay away from her forever. Chu Man thanks him for understanding her. Yen Kai Ming walks away and confesses that he’s not happy about it. The way he sees it, what Chu Man did means Jia Hao means more to her than he does. Her desire to protect Jia Hao makes him feel jealous. Chu Man is stunned that he’s jealous over her? Yen Kai Ming sighs and confesses that he’s never been this unsure around a woman before.
He asks Chu Man what she will do if he decides to hurt Jia Hao in the end? She says she will pick him in the end – any sane woman will pick Yen Kai Ming. He asks if this is how she really feels? She says this is how she used to, presently, and will always think. She makes a promise to him that he’s what she wants. They embrace and Chu Man thinks to herself that this is the choice she wants to make, and she will never regret it.
The Due South gang come back to the market to find Yi Xian already back from Paris. She’s cooked a meal for everyone, though really it’s for Jia Hao. Jiang Bao suddenly speaks up and says he heard the guest on a certain TV show today was Miss. Chu Man. Everyone turns silent and stares at him. Jiang Bao thinks he has an obligation as Yi Xian’s friend to tell her that Jia Hao got a new girlfriend. Everyone looks uncomfortable and tries to shut Jiang Bao up.
Jia Hui says Yi Xian is her ideal sister-in-law. Jiang Bao says he knows that the woman Jia Hao loves with his entire life is Chu Man. Jia Hui says Chu Man has moved away and is with another man now. Jia Hao finally speak up and says he does love Chu Man, but that was when she was single and living here. But now she’s moved away and is happy with Yen Kai Ming. He wants to start over now in a life without Chu Man.
Jia Hao tells Yi Xian to go home, but she stammers that her parents might not be home tonight. She goes to call her parents, and we hear her saying that she needs to spend the night at the market because otherwise her place in Jia Hao’s heart is not secure.
Thoughts of Mine:
Wow, Chu Man is one of those rare characters that make me seriously wonder what I would have turned out had I lived her life. What makes her so impossible to disdain is in her rare honestly – admitting that she values money because it offers security, but never claiming that her sad sack of a childhood was the excuse for everyone to condone her behavior. She doesn’t care for acceptance from society, she is simply seeking the life she believes will make her happy. I understand that, even as I desperately wish for her to be able to let that mantra go because she has found a love she can believe in.
Too bad her despicable human being of a mom reappeared in her life and pretty much reminded Chu Man why love doesn’t exist in her life. “I never once loved you.” Wow. I don’t care if Yen Kai Ming paid her a billion dollars. No mother with even a shred of humanity would say that to one’s own daughter. I did appreciate how the drama refused to even allow Chu Man’s mom to explain or redeem herself. Any woman that would just deposit a kid at an orphanage and run off to find a better life couldn’t possibly change. But it was gutwrenching to watch Chu Man be reminded of that cruel reality on her own birthday, no less.
I’m really not too invested in the OTP, but I find the two men in Chu Man’s life fascinating in the way they “love” her. One is with money and copious amounts of control, the other is with passion and freedom. Yes, I do believe Yen Kai Ming loves Chu Man, in the way that he knows how. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that being Yen Kai Ming’s well-managed trophy wife isn’t going to be a cake walk for Chu Man, but neither is picking a penniless violin player with potential but no pedigree.
I like watching Chu Man slowly change, but appreciate that love isn’t the miracle solution in this story. Lynn Xiong‘s acting continues to reach new heights of delicate and steely nuance. The sliver of hope when she approached her mom, the devastating realization of defeat when her mom killed what remained of that little girl inside of her, Lynn’s body and facial expression captured those emotional turns brilliantly. And when she turned on her full bitch mode against Jia Hao to protect him, boy was I scared for him. She’s a truly formidable heroine.