While the two lead characters in Secret Love Affair are having their personal axis shaken after meeting musical kindred spirits in each other, the drama deftly leads the audience into feeling the same sense of discombobulation. It does so by stripping this story of any context. Did you notice that we know nothing about any of the characters prior the moment we were given the peek into their lives? Five episodes in, other than poor mostly self-taught Sun Jae, we still know next to nothing about their pasts and how they settled into their current spots in life. That really begs the question about Hye Won, are we to believe she was born this effortless and tactical? Or was she once a green and nervous young thing like the way Sun Jae is around her? Does she feel his emotions and it triggers something deep inside her that has been buried or scrubbed away through years serving the rich patrons in her life at the cost of her sincerity? Sun Jae has awkwardly explained what Hye Won means to him – a goddess, his musical companion, the savior of his soul – but what does Sun Jae mean to Hye Won so that she’s actually wavering around him.
His presence causes her to do things she would never consider in her orderly self-contained life, to bail him out of jail, to considering throwing Da Mi off his track, to consciously keep him out of her house so that she’s not tempted. I don’t blame Hye Won for keeping Sun Jae at bay, it’s not in her personality to throw caution to the wind for a romantic assignation however soul rending it might be. Young Woo is like a shining (and proximate) example of everything NOT to do for Hye Won, and one of the do not does is mess around with younger men for gratification out of marriage. I think it a moralizing double standard to say that Young Woo’s money paid for relationship with her boy toy is inherently more wrong that Hye Won engaging in an affair with Sun Jae over an uncontrollable attraction to each other. Both have the same end result but merely a different process of getting there. We feel for Hye Won because we have the context of seeing her always try to do the right thing, versus Young Woo doing whatever the heck she wants. Which makes Hye Won’s struggle to keep the wall up between her and Sun Jae a tense and nervous thing to watch because it feels so doomed to failure.
Episode 5 recap:
Hye Won hands some of her husband’s clothes for the housekeeper to take down to Sun Jae. If that’s not some glaring metaphor I’m not sure what is. The housekeeper asks how long this student will be staying and Hye Won doesn’t know. Hye Won probably finds it an easier coping mechanism not to dig too deep into things. Joon Hyung asks for the video of Sun Jae playing so he can refresh and then asks for wine instead of tea brought down to them. Hye Won steps out of her room and takes a breath.
Sun Jae has showered and changed but as he’s leaving the bathroom he goes back and sniffs his dirty clothes and makes a face. Is his own smelly clothes preferable to wearing Joon Hyung’s? Joon Hyung is watching Sun Jae’s playing recording and smiling. If only you could see deeper than the surface, dude.
Hye Won knocks on the guest room and Sun Jae immediately bolts up. He’s so nervous around her it’s endearing, and I think she likes it too secretly. Hye Won asks him not to drink when Joon Hyung offers it, in case there is some slip up behavior to follow. He immediately agrees and she leaves the directions to the practice room before turning to leave. Sun Jae stops her to ask what the plans are for his future? Hye Won brings up what Joon Hyung has in store for him but Sun Jae asks what she thinks.
Why was she angry at him the last time they met? Hye Won closes the door and marches right up to him and asks if this is the time or place to be talking about this? Sun Jae asks how could she forget what happened last time between them. Hye Won of course hasn’t forgotten, but the woman is laced up tighter than a Victorian corset and even Sun Jae isn’t anywhere near cracking her veneer. She chides him for being a child and not thinking and just doing whatever he wants.
Sun Jae has put a lot of thought and effort into it just like he has with his piano-playing, when he’s practicing the piano and encounters English that he doesn’t know, he translates into Hangul so he can read it. He has practiced speaking so he no longer stutters, so he can talk clearly. But he’s really confused right now because of her. She arrived during his most low period when he wanted to kill himself and gave him back his piano dream. He feels like she understands his heart. Hye Won swallows and just stares at him, her face placid but I’m sure that heart is secretly beating underneath.
Because Sun Jae was filled with such intense emotions, he kissed her because a man would kiss that woman at such a moment. Hye Won continues to stare and her mouth opens slightly and Sun Jae head drops and he says she accepted that kiss. But then she turned around and got mad and said she doesn’t remember anymore, leaving him all flustered and confused. Is it true that someone with a husband can just pretend such things never happened? Hye Won’s eyes blaze and Sun Jae apologizes for cracking a lame jibe because he doesn’t know what else to say. Sun Jae wonders if she would be more honest with him if Joon Hyung wasn’t in the picture? Hye Won doesn’t want to talk anymore and tells him to come out.
Hye Won deposits Sun Jae in the practice room all freshly showered and wearing Joon Hyung’s clothes. She notes that his clothes fit well and Joon Hyung isn’t surprised and brings up how Sun Jae escaped the concert hall that day wearing his clothes. Oh, again with the irony. Hye Won pours two juices for herself and Sun Jae while Joon Hyung offers him wine which Sun Jae immediately turns down. Hye Won hands Sun Jae a juice while he stares at the matching wedding bands on her and Joon Hyung’s hand.
Hye Won takes her leave to call Madam Han but Joon Hyung needs her here to listen to Sun Jae play. He calls Sun Jae “a company asset” and both he and Hye Won are Sun Jae’s administrators. He tells Hye Won to finish up and come back, and then reveals that Young Woo has come back. Sun Jae awkwardly drinks with Joon Hyung while Hye Won quickly escapes and goes to stand by the stairwell and take deep long breaths.
Joon Hyung explains that he has arranged himself as Sun Jae’s guardian and his TA will bring Sun Jae’s belongings over tomorrow. Dean Min will schedule an exception audition and everything is neatly arranged for Sun Jae.
Madam Han has heard about Sun Jae’s return and is on the phone with Hye Won. She reminds Hye Won that child will be of great use to them in the future but his entry now needs to be low key. She doesn’t want it connected with the admittance of Teacher Baek’s daughter, background noise needs to be cancelled out. Lee Sun Jae needs to be properly developed, even if Joon Hyung wants Sun Jae to rub off some glory, it’s Hye Won who needs to properly keep watch over him.
Madam Han asks if the new account has been set up and Hye Won got some suggestions from Teacher Baek but all of it is easily traceable so she opened the account under her parents name. Madam Han asks Hye Won to buy up SA stock once the money is transferred into that account. Madam Han asks if Young Woo is back and wants Hye Won to pull her credit card history to see how much she spent on the trip. She knows Young Woo will go wheedling to her dad if she wants to buy something big so she needs Hye Won to keep an eye on the Chairman for her. Unlike Young Woo, she’s not the Chairman’s daughter nor does she have a child with him.
The Chairman goes home and runs into Madam Han’s secretary who has come to arrange Madam Han’s closet. The Chairman asks why she doesn’t have a man yet and compliments her on being pretty but having too high taste. After he walks away, the Secretary complains to the housekeeper that the way the Chairman talks to her is totally sexual harassment. The housekeeper says the Chairman is like then when he’s in a good mood and the Secretary asks if the Chairman just went to console the restaurant ahjumma? The two ladies gossip about that.
Jang Ho places Yoo Ra in a cab after getting Professor Kang Joon Hyung’s address from her. Da Mi is waiting in the wings and after the cab pulls away she walks up to Jang Ho to get the address. Jang Ho has confirmed that Joon Hyung took Sun Jae away at the police station and he’s also Yoo Ra’s professor while Jang Ho is Yoo Ra’s boyfriend which is how he got the address.
Hye Won is resting on the sofa when the phone rings with a text from Da Mi asking if this is Professor Kang’s cell and introducing herself as Sun Jae’s girlfriend Park Da Mi. Hye Won’s eyes flicker when she reads that. Da Mi thanks Joon Hyung if he was the one who took Sun Jae away. Hye Won remembers Da Mi crying to her in the beauty salon about Sun Jae’s plight.
Hye Won is about to text back “you got the wrong number”. WOAH. She catches herself and actually can’t believe what she almost did. She deletes that text and writes back another and then decides to go downstairs and hand the phone to Joon Hyung so that he can text Da Mi back directly. She notices Joon Hyung grabbing another wine bottle and reminds him to drink less. Joon Hyung decides to delete Da Mi’s texts. It’s pretty brilliant how the end result was the same – Da Mi’s text deleted – even though it was done by Joon Hyung and not Hye Won, and for a different self-serving purpose.
Joon Hyung goes back to the practice room and tells Sun Jae that he just needs to focus on the piano now and not worry about girls so he needs to arrange his environs. He assures Sun Jae that passing the auditions is all but a done deal and Sun Jae needs to set his sights on beyond that.
Hye Won is working and thinks back to Madam Han’s words for her to not let Sun Jae slip through again and use that child properly. She hears a drunken Joon Hyung heading off to bed. Joon Hyung claims he’s not drunk and tells Sun Jae to learn how to drink so they can drink in the future. As he walks up the stairs, he loudly calls out “honey, honey” and Sun Jae tenses when he hears that.
Sun Jae is cleaning up the snack in the practice room while Hye Won is tidying her desk. She remembers Sun Jae saying that a man would kiss a woman in that moment, but then mutters that Sun Jae isn’t a “man”. Hye Won peers out from her study and then slowly tiptoes to try and sneak back upstairs to her room undetected. Of course Sun Jae’s Hye Won radar pops up and he steps out in the hallway. She natters about how to get back to his room in case he was lost, and then asks if Joon Hyung mentioned his girlfriend texted earlier looking for him. Since it’s late, he needs to contact her in the morning to allay her worries.
Sun Jae finally gets in a word and asks her to play a duet together. She asks if he’s not too tired and I think he would play with her through rain, shine, and maybe even broken fingers. Hye Won walks into the practice room and thanks him for cleaning up already. Sun Jae apologizes for his girlfriend contacting her but Hye Won says it’s nothing. Sun Jae explains that they never slept together but Hye Won doesn’t think he needs to explain such things to her.
Hye Won walks closer to Sun Jae. He doesn’t know why he said it, only that he knows Professor Kang calls her Hye Won and they share a room. Hye Won suddenly makes the move and grabs Sun Jae for a kiss, her hands pulling his face towards her. She kisses and then stops before kissing him again.
After Hye Won pulls away from the kiss, she tells Sun Jae to stop messing with her and this is to teach him a lesson. She’s using a very hard method to teach him a lesson so he needs to stop sticking his head in other people’s business. Hye Won turns to leave which is when Sun Jae grabs her for a tight back hug. Hye Won’s face is so affected like she just wants to stay there in his arms forever. Sun Jae just wants to play for her, can she stay? Hye Wons arms move up to his arm and he grabs her arms tightly.
Sun Jae starts to play and his posture is beautifully straight like Hye Won corrected. Hye Won listens and her eyes close as does Sun Jae’s eyes because he’s so into the composition. Both of them are swaying to the music and Hye Won even has her finger moving like she was playing herself.
Hye Won finally sits down next to Sun Jae and they play together, playful and fun, one leading and the other following, a natural and effortless collaboration of four hands and two people who have music in their souls.
As they play, Hye Won turns the page and Sun Jae corrects it since she turned two pages which gets a chagrined laugh out of Hye Won. Joon Hyung is laying in bed muttering for the playing to stop because he wants to go to sleep. Hye Won and Sun Jae continue to play oblivious to the world and time passing, they are just doing it because it’s such a beautiful release for them.
When this score is done, Hye Won stands up with a laugh and Sun Jae pulls her into his arms for a hug. He asks for another tune but Hye Won says this is enough for tonight. Both of them stare at each other and at the piano and laugh with open abandonment. Such a stripped bare moment of joy to behold.
Hye Won goes up to her room, a bit reluctantly, leaving Sun Jae to play alone in the practice room. Sun Jae continues playing as Hye Won lays down in her own bed in the same room as Joon Hyung. He’s already fast asleep while she appears to drift off with a smile as the sounds of Sun Jae’s soft and slow playing reach her ears.
Joon Hyung is hurrying to leave for work and sees Hye Won in the kitchen. He asks if she played more piano last night and the housekeeper pipes up that when she got up this morning was when Sun Jae left the piano room.We see Sun Jae fast asleep in the guest room. Joon Hyung and Hye Won leave the house and Joon Hyung instructs the housekeeper to let Sun Jae sleep in. He asks Hye Won to make an appointment at a store so he can buy some clothes for Sun Jae and some new items for himself as well.
Hye Won will make the appointment but declines to go pick out the clothes, but Joon Hyung insists her eye for clothes is better. Dude, she does everything better than you. By like a billion percent. Joon Hyung hands Sun Jae’s shoe to the housekeeper to hide so that Sun Jae can’t run away (LOL), and then gives instructions not to open the door for anyone coming to look for him. Hye Won waits for Joon Hyung to pull out of the garage before she drives out. She spots Da Mi on the street walking towards her house.
Hye Won pulls down the sun visor to shied her face from view and then quickly drives off. Da Mi follows the address given by Jang Ho and arrive at the house. She rings looking for Sun Jae and asking if he’s there? The housekeeper hears that she’s Sun Jae’s girlfriend but the housekeeper says she can’t let Da Mi in since the owners are not home. The housekeeper calls Hye Won and she instructs Da Mi to be let in and for a meal to be provided for them. She tells the housekeeper to make sure the guest room door is left open and quickly makes the excuse that they are not kids so just to be safe.
Da Mi enters the house and the housekeeper mutters that she was told not to wake up Sun Jae. Da Mi promises to just peek in to make sure he’s fine before she leaves for work. The second she sees Sun Jae sleeping on the bed, she tossed her backpack at his head and wakes him up with screams and fists yelling at how he can worry her like this. Sun Jae tries to calm her down while the housekeeper looks on disapprovingly before walking away, but not forgetting to leave the door open a crack.
Sun Jae wrestles with Da Mi on the bed since she won’t stop throwing a fuss. Finally Da Mi uses the crying routine and Sun Jae has no choice but to hug her. The housekeeper hears the wailing from the room and mutters that it’s such a ruckus up there. Da Mi cries that she’s been through so much with Sun Jae which does trigger his memories of her being by his side. The housekeeper calls them down to eat and then goes to clean the house. Da Mi notices that she’s scratched Sun Jae’s neck and tells him to put on a bandaid otherwise it looks like a hickey. She asks if he’s planning to live here from now on? Sun Jae doesn’t know and Da Mi invites herself over to stay sometimes if he does live here.
Hye Won is going over the performance budget with her finance guy and asking him to find places where cuts can be made. Hye Won takes out her phone and considers calling Sun Jae. Her secretary asks if Director Seo is coming to work and hears she’s arriving this afternoon.
Joon Hyung provides an update to Dean Min and Professor Jo on Sun Jae, revealing that he played the piano all night so Joon Hyung let him sleep in rather than bring him to the school. Dean Min says no need since he’ll meet Sun Jae at the auditions and suggests he be allowed to audit classes for the time being until he’s officially admitted. Professor Jo is cool with that and asks if Sun Jae can remember anything he hears once. Joon Hyung is quite proud since he’s mostly self taught.
Professor Jo thinks Hye Won likes this student as well and Dean Min is sure she does since he’s presence is also good for the company side. Joon Hyung grouses that Professor Jo calls Hye Won by her first name all chummy. Dean Min changes the subject and says it’s good for Sun Jae to be brought into the school and Professor Jo has brought in his share of students through the back door.
Joon Hyung confirms his assistant brought Sun Jae’s belongings to Seoul and then has him bring Sun Jae to the store later this afternoon.
The supremely bitchy cello professor is still being mean to her student who is trying to sell her cello because the sound isn’t right but the professor blames it on her incompetence for not using it correctly. She flat out gets in her car and drives off without offering any help to her on selling the cello. Joon Hyung’s assistant is getting items of of his car and notices her on the phone with her mom. He asks if she’s trying to sell her cello and she is, she bought it based on the professor’s suggestion but it’s not the correct one. The assistant says she needs to sue and forget about coming to school. He offers to drive her and talk more but she’s not interesting in suing.
President Lee is meeting with the cello professor about Yoo Ra, the professor says that as long as she comes to class then she won’t get an F. Yoo Ra arrives at the spa and her mom asks if Yoo Ra will consider switching to cello if she’s not interested in the piano. Yoo Ra snarks that neither is appealing and walks out. President Lee apologizes to the professor and she’s still willing to accept Yoo Ra and tells President Lee to discuss with Professor Kang first.
Yoo Ra passes by Da Mi on the stairwell and tosses something in her basket. When Da Mi asks what it is, Yoo Ra walks back and presses it rudely on Da Mi’s forehead and says it’s gum. Ugh, could she be anymore revolting.
Sun Jae is going through his belongings brought back to him and pulls out his precious book from Hye Won.
Hye Won comes back to her office and is told that Young Woo is so shameless without Madam Han around. Hye Won walks in to find Young Woo and her boy toy sitting there waiting for her. Young Woo cuts to the chase and she wants to open a company so she can work with her “friend” going forward. He’s got a great eye when shopping and tells him to suggest business ideas to Hye Won. His idea is to set set up boutiques or invite the high class clientele at the art’s center for shopping events.
Hye Won cuts him off and says this isn’t a conversation to have here at work. Young Woo has already even thought of a name for the company that contains both her name and the guy’s name. She demands Hye Won listen carefully so she can submit a proposal later. Young Woo says she needs to wait for the elders to give her direction before she can do anything. Young Woo hears elders and asks if it involves both the Chairman and Madam Han. The boy toy gets all irritated and leaves while Young Woo chases after him to placate him but he plays hard to get.
The ladies are gossiping about how Young Woo is like a drug addict and it’s a type of addiction. Hye Won says she almost threw up back there it was so disgusting watching them. The assistant has dropped off Sun Jae at the boutique but he needs to head back to his kid’s school meeting so he calls Hye Won to come get Sun Jae. Before leaving he warns Sun Jae to stay put and not run off otherwise he’s in trouble. Sun Jae sits down and waits for Hye Won.
Hye Won arrives and is led to a private booth where Sun Jae is waiting. She wonders why he’s changed and Sun Jae explains he got his belongings back. Hye Won notices the scratches and Sun Jae admits he got in a fight with his girlfriend. She wonders if they fight all the time but Sun Jae claims this was because of being too happy to see each other. Hye Won reminds him that Joon Hyung doesn’t want him to have a girlfriend right now but Sun Jae wants to hear what Hye Won thinks. Hye Won doesn’t care and leans in to talk with him closer and says it’ll keep him from bothering her. When other ladies peer at them she quickly explains they are talking about the piano.
Sun Jae remembers their rapturous joy in playing together last night and can’t help but smile because he knows she likes it. He has decided to go back home and even brought his stuff with him. Sun Jae knows that if one like something so much it’s only going to sink in deeper. He was hoping to go forward and no one would ever find out, either Joon Hyung or his girlfriend.
Joon Hyung walks over and the conversation ends and the trio head inside to try on new clothes. Hye Won’s eyes widen as Sun Jae is trying on clothes and she can’t help but check him out and then totally has a fantasy of Sun Jae and Da Mi in bed having sex. Dayum. She snaps out of it when Sun Jae declines the clothes and then moves to leave so he can go back to his old place.
Hye Won remembers what Sun Jae said about sinking in deeper and eventually not being able to break free so she agrees with Sun Jae to go back to his old place saying it’s more comfortable. Joon Hyung is left being the only one sputtering about the situation.
Thoughts of Mine:
Music is n joy that can be shared, the person playing experiences happiness but so does the person listening. And the listening audience can be one or a million and more, it’s a shared bliss that reaches to infinity and lasts forever as the greatest compositions and performances have transcended time. Love and passion is not, it’s a very self-contained form of joy that is limited only to the two people in the moment. So it’s with great irony to watch Sun Jae and Hye Won struggle against something so profoundly self-serving based on a connection to something so expansive. Joon Hyung is becoming hella entertaining to watch, with his own quirks and desires rising to the forefront. We don’t see him searching for baser satisfaction such as the Chairman with his womanly asides or Young Woo with her numbing of pain through male companionship. He’s more like Madam Han, but less intelligent and more limited in scope. He just wants to be the big man on campus at Seohan University, his goal is merely to surpass Professor Jo in clout and recognition. If only he knew the full talent of his wife and could utilize her assistance properly rather than whine and wheedle like the manchild he is. In many ways, Joon Hyung is the boy in this story while Sun Jae is already a man in his honesty about admitting to his dreams and desires. Sun Jae’s directness is also like a splash of cold water on Hye Won who lives daily in a world bathed in subterfuge and calculation. Does she ever think – how did I become like this? how did I end up in a world like this? Does Sun Jae represent the her of the past who is long gone, or a dream of something different in a future she had long since mapped out to continue along the road she’s already traveling?
There is nothing to do other than sit back and soak in the unbridled joy of Sun Jae and Hye Won playing the piano together. It’s untainted by morality and structure, unburdened by life’s challenges and future certainty. In many ways it does represent sex, a passionate interlude that occurs outside any context by the experience of sensations that are there one moment and gone the next. I don’t particularly need Sun Jae and Hye Won to have a secret love affair, nor am I bothered as the morality police if they do. The drama has already sold me on their stirring connection in both emotional need and awareness of each other, the sex part almost is beside the point. I don’t see a happy ending in sight for them, but that is also something beyond the purview of this story. I see this story as Sun Jae’s rebirth into a destined life of a renowned pianist, and we are watching the beginning steps of his journey. Will he be looking back at his unsanctioned romance with Hye Won as a fond memory, as an unforgettable love, or as the impetus for him to reach his full potential. I see Hye Won looking back at Sun Jae as something that touched her when she’s already been numbed to feelings for so long. He is special and hopefully she will realize it and not keep him at bay. Even if all they do is play the piano and hug, both of them desperately need this connection in their lives at this moment. And sometimes we all need to live in the moment because we already pay the price every day to hold back.
Click here to watch Secret Love Affair.