If Seohan had been an ancient kingdom and Hye Won a man, King Seo would have been wise to employ her skills to lead his troops. Her comfort with and talent in waging battle on several fronts simultaneously impress me. I can imagine marshalling thousands of troops would not daunt her any more than dealing with all the intricacies of her current work. As it is, Hye Won leads an army of one. Maybe three if you count Jo and Ji Soo as assets. History shows us many David and Goliath victories, so her case is not hopeless yet. In fact, if we reference the Chinese Thirty-Six Strategems of battle, we can recognize several of General Won’s battle plans. Poetically written, I love the imagery they evoke.
Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean – Let the enemy believe you have one goal, when you are actually attempting something unexpected. This is the one I hope Hye Won has up her incredibly elegant sleeve. Does anyone really know what she wants? Hide a knife behind a smile – Gain the enemies trust, then use all the information you have against them. Seo and Prosecutor Husband must have anticipated this one, but still, she has sooo much dirt on them. Feign madness but keep your balance – Let them think they know her weakness giving them a sense of overconfidence that can be exploited. Everyone seems to think that her affair with Sun Jae will bring her down, but I am not so sure it will.
I am conflicted about what Hye Won should do, however. I want her to get her due from the Seohan clan, or more specifically, I don’t want them to triumph. Not necessarily because I think she deserves a reward for getting involved in this dirty mess in the first place, but because they don’t deserve to keep all the illicit gains they are hoarding. Although General Lee (Sun Jae) may prove to be a stronger leader than General Oh, as he has been advising what has been described as the best strategy all along. GET OUT! In the words of General Wáng, the most quoted military mind of all time. “Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat. As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance. ‘Of the Thirty-Six Stratagems, fleeing is best.’”
ARE YOU LISTENING HYE WON?
Episode 13 recap:
The very nice secretary rushes to tell Han’s secretary about Da Mi visiting Hye Won. She replies, surprisingly, that she is not surprised. She seems almost happy about it.
Da Mi is telling Hye Won to stop seeing Sun Jae, even though telling Sun Jae not to see Hye Won failed. After all, Hye Won has a husband. Da Mi doesn’t believe Hye Won’s assertion that they only met to talk about things.
“It took one night and two days to tell him?” It’s difficult for Da Mi to understand why Hye Won, who has everything, is doing this. “I’m a good kid.” Unlike the other girls at the salon who drool over the designer bags and clothes, and who gossip about the clients, Da Mi puts up with their crap and treats them like the queens and princesses who pay her. Hye Won, she thought was a good person because of the way she handled the broken necklace.
Da Mi admits that Sun Jae isn’t hers but their friendship and gratefulness could be the path to marriage. Most people only experience that their whole lives staying married. “Passion only lasts a minute.” Hye Won has been taking this silently from the start, gathers her courage. “I like you Da Mi, and have been on your side, but this isn’t right.” Whoever has been telling her these things, it would have been better to ask her first.
Hye Won stands up for herself, “This is my workplace.” She asks the younger woman to leave, warning that judging her by listening only to what others say is dangerous. Da Mi counters that she has seen the evidence and it made her puke. Hye Won tries the brush off with “Let’s meet again when I have time. How about a meal with Sun Jae?” Da Mi then reveals Mde Han and “that strange woman who runs errands” put her up to it, calling them ridiculous and disgusting. But it is because Sun Jae, that punk, is too precious to her to just sit still about this. She walks out as Hye Won crumbles, in tears and guilt that bring her down to the floor.
Da Mi, calling them crazy bitches, spits as she walks out.
A medical person, IV and all, tend to Hye Won on her office sofa. Mde Han watches on the sly, exchanging looks with her secretary.
Sun Jae reads a text from Hye Won, puzzled, “Park Da Mi, she’s a decent kid. Be sure to keep her as a friend.” He’s composing a response “What did Da Mi –“ when he gets a follow up “But not as a girlfriend! Delete this immediately and do not reply.” He appears confused by this.
He doesn’t have to wait long to solve this mystery.
Da Mi arrives, confessing she caused trouble, as he suspected. He orders her not to sit on his mother’s bed. When she admits she told his teacher to stop meeting him, he loses it.
“What?! Who are you to do that?” Her concern is that hanging around them will taint him, and his ahjumma is just like the rest of the corrupted people in Seohan. He knows, but wants to give her the opportunity to change. “Because she loves me, she doesn’t want to be dirty anymore.” Sun Jae is mortified that Da Mi stepped in. His angry response stuns Da Mi, as well as Sun Jae’s defense of the woman. He tells her now that she has had her say, she can stop. Da Mi allows for only one outcome between the pair, “If the ahjumma throws everything away and goes to you, then I will believe it…Otherwise it was all a lie.” Another wave of utter embarrassment hits Sun Jae.
A deeply felt “Aish!” and he buries his head in his hand, bent over.
Min is chatting happily with a woman, who it turns out to be a magazine editor. She greets Joon Hyung who joins them. Editor has good things to say about Hye Won had helped her when she was just starting out.
Min manipulates the situation and the easily swayed Kang. It is decided there will be an interview with the happy family: Joon Hyung, Hye Won as well as star student, Sun Jae. This.cannot.be.good.at.all.
Prosecutor Husband goes to meet Hye Won, relaying a message from Seo, that he wants to honor him as well as they can, they just need to know “How much?”
They are served two coffees. He accuses her of texting him as a way to leave evidence of the transaction, which she doesn’t deny. “You are meticulous.” He hands her a slip of paper that she reads and approves to it with a nod. “Will that do?” he asks. “The chairman ordered that you choose between the two.” Prosecutor Husband picks the latter. He tears up the paper, and puts it in his coffee. “We’ll begin the process of the handover,” he instructs, swirling his cup. She drinks hers and replies, “Do so.”
The line of black cars carries the Chairman home. He sits near a sunny window with Prosecutor Husband. The Chairman knows how great the cost was to bring him home but he couldn’t survive in there. He was dying. They conspire about the investigation and trial, which can be sped up. Without mentioning it specifically, it is understood that in order to be make Chairman innocent, he has to consent to making someone else the scapegoat. They go along with on this course of action.
It is somehow business as usual downstairs in the kitchen. Hye Won waits on the Queen and the Princess pouring them tea.
“I should have taken him to the hospital,” Young Woo regrets, but Han suggested that to him already and was denied. Young Woo wants coffee and sends Hye Won off to make some. “Are you worried I’ll take control of your Dad? Is that why you keep talking about hospitals?” Young Woo’s concern is real; Han smiles a little disbelieving smile. Prosecutor Husband comes in and summons Hye Won to see Seo.
Young Woo wants to know if her company is in trouble and Han teases that is always likely. Prosecutor Husband suggests that they stop fighting…now.
In the upper sanctuary, King Seo asks Hye Won to sit. With very little prologue, he tells his man to hand her THE envelope, pronouncing those horrible, fatal words “You have worked hard all this time.” Hye Won hesitates, “I don’t know if I should accept this,” literally not taking the proffered pay off. “Of course you should, it is from my heart.” Finally with dismay, she holds it in both hands, not grateful but shocked and uneasy.
Later in her office, she replays in her mind Seo’s dismissing words about her working hard.
She has herself driven to the waterfront where she sits in the back of a cab. Kites sail happily above her. The driver hands her a cup of coffee and she asks for a little more time to gather her thoughts looking a lot less sure than she has in the past.
Sun Jae comes down to exchange his empty side dish containers for full ones. He swipes an unfinished bottle of soju left by a customer. Up on his roof, he takes a swig.
The kites at the river come down, Hye Won stares out.
Sun Jae, taking down his laundry, gets a text from Hye Won to come see him at an address, “discuss an important matter.”
He flies out, eventually, to an older house and enters knocking. Ji Soo sits across from another lady comes out to greet him introducing herself as Jo’s wife. She has kind words for him and he thanks her.
The other woman, the owner of the studio, takes him into an inner room, where Hye Won sits drinking from a mug. She needed some place safe to meet him. He is upset she is being followed.
Hye Won’s friend leaves them; she and Ji Soo concurs, “This won’t be easy.”
The space between them on the table is small compared to the giant problem that separates them now. Sun Jae has become more aware of how bad her life is, calling it “brutal.” Hye Won warns him things will get worse. Sun Jae laments his naïveté that he thought Hye Won could take care of everything like she said.
“Are you embarrassed by me? Angry?” she wonders. He shakes his head, “I used to say that I love you all the time.”
She has a favor to ask him. With the press closing in now, she needs to put on a front with her husband, with her marriage. It is going to take a huge amount of patience on his part to endure this. Poor Sun Jae looks completely defeated already, this is almost too much. Considering how long and hard she has worked, she doesn’t want to give up anything,
“Including you. I don’t want to lose any of it.” These words do little to soothe Sun Jae.
Her instructions to him, until she can beat them, are to stay quiet, have fun in school. As far as Kang, be nice to him and never ever tell him about sending the DVDs overseas. He can take lessons from Jo. “You can do this right?” He has been listening and considering her options; he looks over at her for a good bit,
but now protests, “Why can’t you just use this opportunity to get out completely?” Well, lady, why can’t you?!
When she tells him now is not the time, he wonders, “What if you get caught forever?” He recalls how she cried while listening to ‘Piano Man’ and it broke his heart. We see them on the bed in their honeymoon suite in the country.
“What could you have possibly sacrificed your 20s for?” he wants to know. She replies, “It wasn’t to make a living. It wasn’t for a noble cause either. It was just… I want to belong to the upper class.” He laughs bitterly at that.
That was what drove her to grit her teeth. Joining him in the bitter laugh, she, pretending to be him inquires,
“‘You wasted your youth on just that?’”
He smiles and agrees that it is funny. Really funny.
If she knows it was wrong then, why does she keep asking him to wait? Hye Won’s uncertainty comes to the forefront. “If I were a nobody… if I weren’t the Vice President of the Art Center…if I didn’t have time or money to take care of myself… would you have liked me still?”
Is he insulted by this question? “Yes! I’m like a weed, so I don’t care about that.”
We have to believe his earnestness. Sun Jae sees what Hye Won is trying to do and cautions her. “Don’t use me as your excuse. And just worry about your own life. They say that the average lifespan is now 80 years. If you’re really unlucky…you will have to live the next 40 years without love. If you think you can do that, then go ahead.”
Wow. Even the unflappable Hye Won flinches at this, the most significant word grenade Sun Jae has dropped. “Stop it!” She covers her face.
Sun Jae gets up and we see he is barely able to hold in his frustration.
Later, in the dark, he ambles home, shoulders drooping under the weight of his misery. A thought stops his progress; he shakes it off and continues.
Joon Hyung enters his home and warily looks everywhere for Hye Won, then goes up to his room.
In her office, Hye Won copies the infamous USB with all the bad things. Her demeanor is calm, while the music swells.
Locking the copy up in her secret safe behind the sliding shelves, she walks away.
When Seo decided to cut off Hye Won with the thank-you-very-much-for-your-hard-work-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out-pay-off-envelope, she must have decided her next step. As she sits, stone-faced, at a table waiting for someone, I feel that all the planning we have seen her do before is child’s play compared to what is next.
Two waiters open the doors for Prosecutor Husband, who enters. They talk about how ten minutes in the morning can make a big difference in one’s day. As a matter of fact, it was while Prosecutor Husband talked to Seo that morning for ten minutes that they decided against having Hye Won arrested.
Overnight, he changed his mind guessing that the Oh Hye Won he knew would cooperate with them, and turn herself in. Hye Won laughs how those ten minutes were indeed important. Prosecutor Husband hopes she will leave the legal documents there. Oh Hye Won pretends to be insulted when he compares her circumstance – that if she pleads guilty she may avoid jail time – to the CEO of a gallery who had face the similar charges. Prosecutor Husband acknowledges that Hye Won is unique in her field, and she thanks him. The Prosecution is prepared for Hye Won to turn herself in – the sooner the better. Here, Hye Won sets her chin on her hand and looks the Prosecutor in the eye, “Let me ask you one thing,” pausing then laughing. “Why did you assume that I would acquiesce to this?”
The music builds as he realizes whom he is up against. “It’s only the beginning.” She takes her leave confidently, and once outside the room, closes the doors firmly on him as he watches.
Prosecutor Husband, undoubtedly to organize their strategy, gathers the Royal clan. Seo claims he expected Hye Won to hold out.
Han wonders if there is some other secret something he entrusted Hye Won with. Young Woo knows Hye Won has all the dirt on Han’s slush fund. Why would she consent to this demand? Her father and Prosecutor Husband want the ladies to stay friendly as they are on the same side now. They should gather all the facts on Hye Won, while pretending to placate her, assuring her the rumors and media reports did not come from them. And Young Woo? Her husband tells her to watch what she says. “Also, don’t put Director Oh’s calls through to the Chairman.” Bad secretary revels in this reversal against Hye Won. She can barely hide her smirk as she walks Han back to the office and opens the door.
Hye Won is playing with the USB box at her desk,
before entering Han’s office with it. She hands it over, “Since I don’t think I am in charge anymore.” Han stands up and hugs her, comforting her with the words, “The legal team feels confident it will be a suspended sentence,” to which Hye Won feigns ignorance. She hands Han a report discussing how they need to stabilize everything disrupted by the investigation.
Han’s response is to scrutinize her, like she hardly recognizes her. Bad secretary is reading a mahjong how-to book when Hye Won comes out, showing sham concern. “Dear, how will this place function without you?” Hye Won embraces her with a smile telling her not to worry.
Young Woo and she pass, and Hye Won only acknowledges the “Think carefully” with a wave.
Sec Mahjong displays shock! The block to the Chairman is on when she tries to call him. She sits in acknowledgement and laughs at their tactic.
Min and Han are actually relieved that Hye Won held out. It buys them time. “What if she handed over everything when she turned herself in?”
Baek has been waiting while Han was on the phone, and gets rewarded with the USB drive. Her delight is apparent.
The Seer will now handle all that Hye Won dealt with. Han thinks it is fitting, (and I can’t believe how stupid this woman is to trust an outsider!)
The salon is abuzz with the rumors that Hye Won is going to jail. They can’t agree if she would be accepted or ostracized when she returns. Da Mi hears this talk as well as the idea that Oh Hye Won must have something big in her hand to resist.
Master Manipulator Min works on poor weak-willed Joon Hyung. The husband distances himself from Hye Won by admitting he and Hye Won haven’t been on the same team for some time. Min tells him to hang in there, or all that he has gone through will mean nothing. If Hye Won does serve time, wouldn’t the Seo clan take care of him? Would the dean appointment be his?
He should maintain his marriage. Jo’s side is recommending him strongly again. Joon Hyung needs to create a pretty picture of Lee Sun Jae, protégé and teacher together. Joon Hyung cannot fathom what Min is asking of him. The dean brings up the interview, telling him to do it to make things appear normal.
On the phone with the interviewer, they set up a time for the weekend. Sun Jae comes in and gets invited to their house. The younger man tries to use Min Woo’s going away party as an excuse, but Joon Hyung rejects that. He goes around Sun Jae but commanding his TA to fetch him. Sun Jae is unsettled. Outside, the TA and he walk and talk. Sun Jae admits having no real choice but to go. Yoo Ra floats by,
“Hey. The rumor about your teacher is outrageous. You want to go out with me?”
Sun Jae replies with a “Do you want to get lost?” LOL
“Well done. That’s how you respond to rumors,” the TA says.
He fills him in on the Rich B’s mom as fortune-teller and investment broker and how Kang, Min and other teachers use her, too.
This gives Sun Jae an idea and he starts to ask a question but stops. They spot the poor student that Cello Snob snubbed. Sun Jae seems interested in the unfairness of how she may quit school since she has been blacklisted. There is no professor that will take her as a student.
As they say good-bye, the TA tries to reassure Sun Jae about going to Hye Won’s house. It could be fun. I cannot agree.
In the hall outside the practice rooms, Sun Jae searches. He finds the poor cello student’s room, and after pausing a moment outside the door goes in.
She is stunned that he there first of all, more so that he is offering to play for her. Wasting no time, she gives him the sheet music before he can run away. He wants to play through it first, which he does expertly, making sight-reading look like the easiest thing ever.
While he does that, she texts her friends, that THE Lee Sun Jae is accompanying her. They rush over with their instruments to Practice Room #7. Their arrival from out of the blue startles Sun Jae.
They are also misfit students nobody wants, if they can put together an ensemble and perform this piece, as long as they get a B+, they will be able pass the midterm. Sun Jae readily agrees. I like how naturally he fits in with them after being a solo for all his life. Jo peeks in through the window enjoying the fun.
Cello Snob sees this and runs to get Joon Hyung. Of course, he arrives and tries to put an end to it. The kids are below Sun Jae’s level, after all.
“Just let him be. He’s having fun.” Joon Hyung complains that he doesn’t have time for these losers. What.a.jerk.
Sun Jae texts Hye Won, “Ms. Oh Hye Won for the first time in my life, I get to play a quintet. I’m worried about visiting your place. But I’m happy for now.
You said that music conquers all. I only regret that I can’t share it with you.” She lets his words sink in for a bit.
I hope she wants to be able to share future moments like that with him.
Joon Hyung readies for the interview and photo shoot; Hye Won has picked out clothes to go with hers.
He orders her to pick something out for Sun Jae, but she says Sun Jae doesn’t need her help. “He’ll pick something that suits his unique style.” Oops! By that, she meant, “OK, honey, ” and goes off to put something together. Joon Hyung calls Sun Jae who can barely contain his anxiety about going.
The TA arrives with Sun Jae. Joon Hyung immediately cancels his plans on going to Min Woo’s party afterward. An anxious Sun Jae looks around as he goes in.
Hye Won is having her make up done. She calls for him to come in.
The editor gushes that Sun Jae looks better in person, and Joon Hyung introduces her as the newly appointed editor of the magazine, “Baek Suk.” He bows politely to her, and she requests an exclusive interview.
Hye Won calls out for him to change. The tension coming from Sun Jae is palpable. Joon Hyung takes him up…to … their… bedroom.
Holding up him a shirt and slacks to wear. “What do you think of this. My wife picked it out.”
Sun Jae clenches his jaw to keep the words in. “Why are you so uptight?” Joon Hyung asks, but Sun Jae stays mum. With an affectionate tap on the shoulder he leaves, after telling Sun Jae to take his time. Alone, the young man lets a breath escape, then takes in the sight. The two separate beds sadden him, as he realizes exactly how Hye Won has been living all this time.
The Russian Piano player book is out at her bedside – this gives him a start and maybe some comfort.
Sitting in Hye Won’s sunny spot where she once looked out for him passing by, he suffers more, not wanting to change into the clothes picked out for him, and certainly not wanting to go downstairs. He looks like I feel – disgusted and nauseated.
Joon Hyung and Hye Won are arranged prettily on a sofa with sun streaming in. Joon Hyung is chatting about how they are only one of several couples that came out of their set of college friends. The editor is trying to draw them out. “Aren’t you being too distant?” Joon Hyung touches Hye Won to her dismay claiming they can be hot when they want to be.
The interviewer laughs, “You do look more like lovers than a married couple.”
Sun Jae has come down the stairs to hear this revolting Q&A.
When she asks about children, wondering if they had planned on not having any. Hye Won contributes that “We are trying.” Sun Jae has seated himself on a step, practically in a fetal position. He covers his ears.
TA finds him like this, and drags him into the Piano Room. They want fake shots of Prof and Student at the keyboard, but Sun Jae cannot smile for the camera.
It that isn’t enough, they pull him onto the couch between the husband and wife. Hye Won just about crawls backward to get away from Sun Jae as he sits beside her. Sun Jae manages a grimace when asked to smile. It is already torture, and worsens when the photographer indicates to Hye Won to come closer to Sun Jae. They oblige and shoot the most awkward Portrait of Lovers with Cuckold Husband in the history of time.
The big question that Sun Jae so aptly put to Hye Won is: Does she want to live out her remaining years with or without love? In order to grab onto Sun Jae with both hands, she is going to have to let go of something. What agonizes Sun Jae is how unwilling Hye Won is to admit this, at least out loud. But the separate beds, the foolishness of her silly husband, the emptiness of her work keep striking the young man with more force than he can withstand. She won’t or can’t listen to him no matter how many times he tells her.
He could survive without her. It would hurt for a long long, time, but he’s still young enough to find himself a fulfilling life of music and friendship. Hye Won, on the other hand, on the verge of imploding, cannot continue in her quest for credibility through money and power. The insiders have shut her out. They don’t want her. I was heartened to see, then, that she does have friends that will protect and support her. The warmth of her school colleagues relieved some of that sick fear I have been holding onto thinking about Hye Won’s situation. The house where Sun Jae was able to talk to her felt very high-powered-inner-sanctum – like something out of a fantasy novel in a land Where Woman Rule. Since it is my habit to take hope from small things, I am clutching on to that warmth, and hope Hye Won does the same.
Click here to watch Secret Love Affair.