This drama hurts so good. It’s like eating a dessert so delicious that it almost brings tears to your eyes. Ratings for this episode took another huge 3% jump forward in both AGB and TNS, leaving me hoping that it has a chance to hit 20 by the time it finishes, just to give the cast and crew a deserved public acknowledgment of the quality of dramatic fare that is Cheongdamdong Alice. I don’t know what evil troll is in charge over at SBS but the network never released a video preview for episode 5 during the entire week wait, which made watching episode 5 today such a novel experience for me since I’m a spoiler whore who devours every little bit of news when it comes to dramas I am obsessed with. The juicy spoiler I posted during the week may or may not have happened in this episode, but I can tell you that all the great new plot developments in this episode made sense and was totally satisfying. Seung Jo and Se Kyung spend quality time together, with him continuing the Secretary Kim ruse while she takes on yet another gig as the new personal stylist for the President of Artemis Korea. What makes everything that extra bit more exciting is seeing the how well developed all the characters are so there remains a lot of room for the story to surprise us at each turn.
So far this drama is also integrating the fashion industry theme and its central conflict of rich versus poor in a complementary way, letting us understand that Se Kyung the aspiring fashion designer has really picked an industry where its become a manifestation of worth and security. I don’t think Seung Jo will feel betrayed when he finds out Se Kyung’s looking to marry into Cheongdamdong, because he is the one telling her to accept any help offered by the President and she lets him know that she intends to use this opportunity to change her life. She’s not angling for the President, she’s looking for this unseen person to become her new White Rabbit. How fascinating is that. Tommy remains as smarmy as ever but I’m looking forward to how he helps In Hwa win Seung Jo’s hand in marriage to align GN Fashion with the Royal Group. I continue to like Yoon Joo more and more and her interactions with Se Kyung are just brilliant and insightful. As much as I’m invested in Se Kyung and Seung Jo’s growing closeness, I also want the drama to show me that Yoon Joo and her husband have found love and happiness regardless of how their relationship first began. This is the hallmark of great writing, making the viewer care about the entire world of this story. There isn’t a single wasted scene or moment in this episode and the entire thing continues to barrel forward with wit and hilarity.
Episode 5 recap:
Yoon Joo tells Se Kyung to find a new White Rabbit as her guide into Cheongdamdong. She thinks to herself “a person like me, how can I find one?” Seung Jo pours soysauce on Tommy Hong before telling him that he has a bad temper and then punching him out. The party guests all gasp.
Tommy apologizes to his guests again claiming there was a misunderstanding. The other CEO tells Tommy that he almost made him commit an error in front of the President of Artemis. Tommy’s assistant tells him that Han Se Kyung does not look like that kind of girl based on her appearance and demeanor. How could someone as good at reading others make such a mistake?
Seung Jo runs out of the party and looks around Cheongdamdong for Se Kyung. He calls her but his call goes to voicemail.
Se Kyung goes back to the party and meets with Tommy. Se Kyung says she’s here to hear his apology for insulting her. She heard the President of Artemis recommended her as a designer. If Tommy didn’t like it, he could have said no. There was no need for what he did. Tommy points out that from her arrival at the party to her interactions with all the guests, it was all to get Tommy to notice her, so his conclusion wasn’t baseless. He just doesn’t know why she would do that if she wasn’t looking for a sponsor? Se Kyung says she just wanted to make a good impression and turns to leave.
Tommy stops her and stares into her eyes before he understands what she wants. He apologizes for insulting her and asks if she is interested in entering Cheongdamdong. Se Kyung doesn’t answer and Tommy laughs, asking what to do since he already found out her real intention. She asks what he can see in her eyes? Tommy says he can see desire. She asks if he can’t also see the rage and misfortune?
Se Kyung leaves and catches her breath outside. Tommy says he’s right about Se Kyung and smirks that she’s so much like someone he met years ago. Se Kyung walks through the street and her heel breaks. She finds a place to sit down, which is when Seung Jo finally locates her.
Seung Jo walks over and mutters that he really wants to do something to that bastard. Se Kyung asks what he wants and Seung Jo says he feels like the President’s slave and tells Se Kyung to come with him. She hesitates and he drags her off.
Seung Jo takes Se Kyung into Artemis and gets her a new pair of shoes. They walk into a men’s clothing display area and Seung Jo starts rattling off the colors, styles, and materials of clothing he likes. Se Kyung is confused and finally asks what he’s doing? Seung Jo gives his size and likes and dislikes and says this is Jean Thierry Cha, President of Artemis and Se Kyung’s new client. The President wants to hire her as his new personal stylist. He heard about what happened today and wants to help her, but for what reason Seung Jo doesn’t know.
He asks if she wants to do it? If so, she needs to keep raising her game to satisfy his requirements. Se Kyung worries that its inappropriate especially after what happened today. Seung Jo asks why she’s not accepting since she says that good things like this never happens to her. Seung Jo tells her to accept it. Se Kyung thinks about the new White Rabbit and looks around.
Seung Jo goes home and thinks about seeing Se Kyung sitting outside with her heel broken. Se Kyung sits at home and thinks about Tommy splashing soysauce on her and later asking if she wants to enter Cheongdamdong. She then thinks about Seung Jo telling her to take this opportunity. Se Kyung reads Yoon Joo’s journal which says to take her time and show her real emotions. Se Kyung says that the White Rabbit is a person, too.
Se Kyung meets with Seung Jo and schedules her work as the stylist for after her part time job at GN. She asks what the first occasion is? He says its the company Christmas party. She asks for the theme and he says Paris. She asks what about Paris, which leaves him confused so he says it’s just Paris. She tells him to take it seriously, he told her not to let this rare opportunity pass her by and she wants to do her best. She also wants to take this chance to change her life around.
Se Kyung tells him to send her all the info about the party. Seung Jo smirks and mutters that she is so serious all of a sudden. He makes hilarious bird calls to lighten to mood. She asks about when she can meet the President and he says NEVER. Se Kyung says she cannot be the President’s stylist if she can’t ever see him. Seung Jo says she should ask him any questions and also do exactly what he says. He will be even more specific with her then the President will be. He tells her that there are no pictures of the President online and the Christmas party will be the first time he makes his public appearance.
Se Kyung meets with Ah Jung who confirms there are no pictures of the President online. Ah Jung says the President is like the devil at work and intensely trying to increase sales.
Seung Jo meets with Secretary Moon and asks about the Paris theme party. Secretary Moon says Paris is just Paris and this time Seung Jo borrows Se Kyung’s words and says there must be more than that! He tells Secretary Moon to prepare a detail file on the party. Secretary Moon asks why he is suddenly interested in the party and Seung Jo snaps at him that its his first time meeting the VVIP guests so why shouldn’t he be involved.
The Han family is packing up to move to a rental and bickering about what to bring. Ah Jung finds Se Kyung looking for the President of Artemis online and confirms there isn’t much. Ah Jung realizes that his last name if the Korean Cha. She wonders what Se Kyung is up to, asking about Tommy Hong last time and now the President of Artemis. Se Kyung promises to tell Ah Jung next time.
Seung Jo tells Dong Wook that he needs a stylist and hired someone very in need of this job. It’s his noblesse oblige. Dong Wook asks if this is healing and sees that Seung Jo is doing much better lately. Seung Jo says he’s curious about himself which is why he is doing this. He wants to learn more about himself – he thought he was completely destroyed before but now his heart is opening again. He wants to know to what degree it will open towards someone.
Se Kyung reads Yoon Joo’s journal about how making connections is about communication to build trust. Se Kyung says she still needs to see the President.
Tommy meets with President Cha Il Nam who laughs that Jean Thierry Cha doesn’t work like that. What is his, is his. He doesn’t sponsor women. Tommy asks why President Cha is interested in Jean Thierry Cha and he says it is to get him to concede defeat.
Tommy wonders why President Cha is trying to defeat Jean Thierry Cha? Perhaps its about Artemis’s refusal to open a boutique in Royal Department store, but other name brands have turned them down so why target him? Tommy says it feels personal and then goes through his mental notes and remembers that President Cha has a son. He tells his assistant to get the background files on President Cha’s family.
Seung Jo takes Se Kyung to the men’s department and goes through the likes and dislikes and she takes notes. He asks why she’s so diligent and calls her very dorky in her sincerity. Se Kyung reminds him again that she’s very serious about this opportunity and tells him to stop messing around. Se Kyung asks to see the President because she needs to measure him and as a designer if she cannot see her client she cannot do her job properly.
Seung Jo offers to take his measurements for her and says the President is a totally weird guy. He grabs the tape measures and plays around with it, promising to do a good job measuring. She takes the tape measure and offers to show Seung Jo how to take measurements by measuring him.
Seung Jo stands there while Se Kyung measures him and explains how to do it. When she goes to measure his chest he giggles and she has to tell him to be serious. Se Kyung asks Seung Jo to lower his head and measures his neck, getting very close to him. Poor Seung Jo is totally affected and nervous and his eyes are fluttering rapidly.
Se Kyung hands him the tape measures and tells him to try. He happily measures himself and Se Kyung. Se Kyung sighs, thinking if she really can’t see the President. She turns around just as Seung Jo tries to measure her neck and he quickly acts like he wasn’t doing anything. SO. ADORABLE. As they leave the department store, he offers to take her to eat or drive her back. She declines saying that she needs to head back to work. Seung Jo smiles as he watches her walk away.
Yoon Joo is at the art gallery with her mother-in-law who hands off the marry In Hwa to Jean Thierry Cha project to her. Yoon Joo smiles and promises that she will do her best.
In Hwa meets with her brother discussing next season’s designs. He asks about the collaboration with Artemis and she says she will meet with him to handle it. Min Hyuk asks what she thinks about getting set up with Jean Thierry Cha and In Hwa smiles and says work is her first priority.
Yoon Joo arrives at GN Fashion and sees In Hwa, congratulating her on the upcoming proposed marriage alliance with Jean Thierry Cha. Yoon Joo tells her husband that she’s been put in charge of this project and she’s happy because his mother is finally trusting her with something important.
When Yoon Joo is leaving, she runs into Se Kyung in the elevator. She asks why Se Kyung poured soysauce on Tommy Hong and Se Kyung retorts that soysauce was poured on her. Yoon Joo laughs but is curious why outside the rumors are that soysauce was poured on him? Yoon Joo says all her help ends now, the journal and the White Rabbit are all she can do to help Se Kyung. But since they are friends, she’ll give Se Kyung a tip. If she continues, she will encounter three dangers.
Se Kyung asks Yoon Joo who her White Rabbit was? How did she get the trust of that White Rabbit? Yoon Joo flashes back to 6 years ago, she turned down Seung Jo’s dad’s offer of money and instead asked for two things. She wanted to finish her schooling in Paris and once she gets back to Korea, she wants President Nam to write her a recommendation to any place where the top echelons of society mingle.
Yoon Joo tells Se Kyung that she was recommended to a place that needed an insider to get her in. She spent the entire year working hard to learn everyone rich and their likes and dislikes. Then she become a personal shopper for a rich woman, just like Se Kyung is for Yoon Joo now. That woman had a son who was divorced, and yes, that is now she married her now husband and that rich woman became her mother-in-law.
Rich people don’t walk down the story, they live only in a small exclusive circle. She asks if Se Kyung has found a new White Rabbit? Se Kyung says yes, but she hasn’t met him before. Yoon Joo asks why Se Kyung thinks he’s her White Rabbit? Se Kyung says he is a rich and appears to see something in her, but all she interacts with is his secretary. Yoon Joo tells Se Kyung to make that secretary her helper. She offers Se Kyng advice on how to get the secretary to trust her and want to tell her everything. Yoon Joo asks who it is and offers to help if its someone she knows. Se Kyung thinks about it and decides not to reveal who it is. Like Yoon Joo wrote in her diary, unless its 100% sure, don’t reveal anything.
Se Kyung sits at home thinking about what Yoon Joo said. She heads out and appears to head to a school. Seung Jo is at his office and smiling like a doofus.
After another meeting, Seung Jo asks if Se Kyung wants to eat and she agrees but says its her treat. As they are driving, Se Kyung has 100 questions about the President and since Seung Jo knows him so well, he can answer for the President. To dress the President, Se Kyung needs to know what he thinks about himself and what others think about him. She tells him to take the questionnaire with him today and also asks him to take a picture of the President’s closet for her.
Se Kyung asks Seung Jo to first take to to her college and he thinks they are going to eat something delicious since its so far away. He plays with his steering wheel because he’s in such a good mood.
Tommy hears from his assistant that President Cha has a son who dropped off the radar after he went to the US to study in his 20s. Yoon Joo arrives with a present of an expensive portrait for Tommy. She asks who the person her mother-in-law has picked for In Hwa? Tommy says its the President of Artemis Korea Jean Thierry Cha. Yoon Joo’s eyes are as wide as saucers and she drops her cup of tea.
Yoon Joo meets with her brother about this latest development. Her brother thinks Seung Jo will be happy because he wants to keep tormenting her. Brother says those Chas are so annoying and reveals that President Cha was at the cafe a few days ago and brought over a new head baker. Yoon Joo sees that its Se Kyung’s dad and averts her face and tells her brother that his new head baker is Han Se Kyung’s dad. Yoon Joo is totally frantic when she leaves.
In Hwa arrives to meet Tommy and barges right into his office. Tommy greets her and she asks for a few minutes of his time. In Hwa asks him to not get involved with her situation with Jean Thierry Cha. He asks if she’s dating anyone else right now and she says no. In Hwa wants to expand GN and asks Tommy to keep an ear out for other opportunities. Tommy lists a few other chaebol fashion groups and In Hwa asks him to keep this between them. She asks Tommy to tell her mom that Jean Theirry Cha declined the arranged marriage. Tommy reads a fax and asks In Hwa – how about the son of Royal Group. In Hwa says that guy is supposedly in a mental hospital. Tommy says the son may in fact be Jean Thierry Cha and he’s 51% sure. In Hwa says bring that percentage up to 75% and she’ll consider it.
Se Kyung and Seung Jo arrive at her alma mater, a ladies university. She sneaks him in and they adorably lurk around avoiding detection. Seung Jo is like a puppy doing what Se Kyung says. When someone walks pass, Se Kyung grabs him and they hide in the corner in close proximity.
Se Kyung and Seung Jo sneak into the design department and she sits down at a table covered with little rabbit dolls wearing suits. She says these are emotional dolls to help capture the President’s many daily moods and situations. Se Kyung grabs a doll and acts out various situations the President will encounter in his daily life. Se Kyung says this is her design philosophy and asks him to pass these rabbit dolls to the President so that she can help design for him going forward based on his feelings.
Se Kyung sits down to finish sewing and Seung Jo wanders around. He sees a bottle of water and asks if he can drink it. He takes a sip and spits it out since its actually benzene. Se Kyung accompanies him to the ER.
When Seung Jo is wheeled into the ER, the nurse asks Se Kyung to fill out his file. She doesn’t even know his name so she calls Secretary Moon and says Secretary Kim is hurt. He asks who Secretary Kim is and she says he was with Secretary Kim outside the jewelry store. Secretary Moon realizes she means Seung Jo and freaks out. A nurse recognizes Seung Jo and quickly goes to inform Dong Wook that Seung Jo is down in the ER.
Se Kyung hears a text arrive on Seung Jo’s phone. She reads it and it’s from Tommy saying that he’s the one who got soysauce poured on him and would like to meet tomorrow in person to apologize. Seung Jo wakes up and freaks out once he realizes what he drank. Se Kyung says he drank very little and immediately spit it out so he’s fine.
Dong Wook arrives and Seung Jo freaks out and rushes over and screams “It’s ME, Secretary Kim, secretary to the President of Artemis and YOU ARE good friends with him.” Dong Wook goes along with the ruse and asks if “Secretary Kim” is alright.
Seung Jo says he’s fine which is when Secretary Moon arrives. Seung Jo screams “aigooooooo…” rushes over and keeps him from calling out his real name. He thanks him for coming to check on him and drags him off.
Dong Wook goes with the nurse to fill out Seung Jo’s paperwork while Seung Jo tells Secretary Moon that he is to keep up pretenses that he’s Secretary Kim in front of Se Kyung. He orders Secretary Moon to leave right away.
Se Kyung walks over and Seung Jo bows and thanks Secretary Moon profusely for coming to check on him.
Suddenly Driver Kim arrives and Seung Jo hilariously makes his third valiant attempt to keep up his ruse. He bellows “aigooooooo…” and has Secretary Moon quickly leave with Driver Kim, who looks so confused.
Seung Jo and Se Kyung leave the hospital and he takes her back to the college to grab the rabbit dolls. She doesn’t know why he’s in any rush since she could bring it to him tomorrow. As he’s happily packing them into a box, Se Kyung stares at him and asks what his first name is.
She doesn’t even know his name. Seung Jo thinks about it and slowly says his name is Seung Jo…..Kim Seung Jo. Se Kyung smiles and files that away. Oh god, my heart, these two are so perfect together.
As they walk out, Se Kyung tells him to go home directly, she’ll take the bus home. He promises to hand the dolls to the President. Before he leaves, Se Kyung stops him a few times but can’t quite get the words out. Finally she says “thank you, I wanted to say thank you.”
Seung Jo smiles and points out that she’s finally saying thank you. He asks what she’s thankful for? Se Kyung demurs with “oh, just those things….” They stand there smiling and understanding each other.
Thoughts of Mine:
What makes CA so special to me is how it delicately balances the sincere with the silly. That is really hard to do. Seung Jo may act like a loony around Se Kyung at times, but we know its a combination of whatever lingering mental issues he has blended with his inner little boy personality. He’s complicated but around her life is so simple. He’s just Secretary Kim, acting on orders of the President, able to do what he wants for Se Kyung without the burden of any expectation on either side. They are becoming friends but there are no strings attached, because while he knows that he’s opening his heart to her, he has the luxury of taking his time and seeing her without any artifice. Similarly Se Kyung has nothing to hide around Seung Jo, and her candor with him only works to restore his faith in the fairer sex. I think ultimately Seung Jo will come around to understanding what Yoon Joo did, but he’ll also realize it was never going to work between them if he was a penniless nobody and she was a girl trying to claw her way out of a life filled with no hope.
I’m finding myself quite appreciating In Hwa’s motivation and drive – she’ll marry but on her own terms, which is to make the alliance that can best expand GN Fashion and therefore better position herself to succeed the business over her older brother with the less than ideal wife. She’s cool because she’s so ballsy and calm about it. I’m wondering how Tommy will toggle trying to hook up In Hwa with Seung Jo, and what is likely his involvement in Se Kyung’s own goal to marry into Cheongdamdong. Clearly its not over between them, and I can see that the more Tommy gets to know her, the more he’ll come to want to help her. This drama has succeeded in building so many concentric circles all overlapping that the fun will come one after another as people start to overlap and lives start to get complicated. Obviously Se Kyung already has her White Rabbit in Jean Thierry Cha and her confidante in Cha Seung Jo. I can’t wait to watch the two of them fall in love as they deal with once again navigating that precarious path between love and money.