The most puzzling relationship portrayed in this series is between wife Hye Won and her husband Joon Hyung. Why him, Hye Won? Surrounded by many musical and creative people back then, was he the only option? How detached could she have been to enter into this sham of convenience? Maybe the answers don’t matter because nobody ends up in an unhappy situation overnight. We are where we are because of a thousand decisions along the way. Early on in Hye Won’s adult life, she traded away the chance at happiness through love and marriage for the contentment of things and prestige. Her friends claim to envy everything she has – excluding her husband, of course. Before meeting Sun Jae, she may have been lonely, but not unbearably so. Bright beautiful passionate Sun Jae arrived, reached into her heart and tugged at the need she had buried for so many years: desire for a human connection, for affection, of touching and being touched. He held her and her heart in his lovely warm hands, throwing into sharp relief the cold emptiness of her existence without him.
They are poised now, face to face, her foot caught in the mousetrap, his hand ready to rip it off for her. His warning that it will hurt and that she will have to endure it frightens her enough to demand why he would attempt it. But, really, what other course of action would someone like Sun Jae accept? He simply cannot bear to watch her stuck forever in a place of misery. Sun Jae and Hye Won together need to reach the lowest low and deepest despair. It is the only path to freedom.
William S. Burroughs, novelist, musician, extremist in all he did wrote: Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.
Episode 14 recap:
The party from hell continues without Sun Jae, who has hidden himself away in the Piano Room. Tormented. Suffering. Lost.
Jong Soo, the TA, comes in to try to pull him back into what has turned into the second round of Min Woo’s going away party.
“Hyung,” Sun Jae begs. “Can you get my clothes?” At first not understanding the significance of what seems like a small thing, he asks why bother to change. But Sun Jae communicates his distress through his eyes in regards to what lies outside that room clearly enough that the TA concedes.
Jong Soo walks into the laughter outside while Sun Jae gasps for air and grasps at the collar of the suffocating disguise he is being forced to wear.
Coming down the stairs, Joon Hyung calls for Jong Soo to wake up Sun Jae, despite Hye Won’s protest. “No,” insists Joon Hyung, “Sun Jae should come out to say hello.”
Ji Soo, sitting on the sofa, can feel the tension of the situation, and Mahjong secretary continues to delight in it.
Sun Jae appears slightly less tense, but only slightly, once changed back into his own things. Jong Soo goes with the story that the young man was asleep, he wants to know why Sun Jae looked scared. “It’s not that I’m scared…” Sun Jae begins, and appears to gather his courage by repeating it and with more energy, grabs the borrowed shirt and slacks.
As he leaves the Piano room, he attempts a confident smile. Walking into a nightmare, conversation and laughter greet him. “I was after her for so long… After all those efforts…” The moment he appears, Hye Won pulls away from her husband. A new face is there, and is introduced as the company sponsor for the after party. Joon Hyung clearly stakes his claim on Hye Won by putting a clumsy arm around her shoulder. She reacts by pulling her hair away.
The bar owner offers Sun Jae free drinks.
Mahjong Secretary greets him with her odd smile and Jo asks about the interview, empathizing with the boy.
Hye Won keeps her eyes down; Sun Jae doesn’t know where to look.
When Ji Soo suggest they eat ramen, Hye Won jumps up, then goes into the kitchen to help. People come in and out; Sun Jae is made to sit down next to Joon Hyung. Once he is seated, his discomfort is so obvious everyone falls silent. We get a peek through a glass partition at Hye Won keeping a cheerful busy front up, but her secretary’s tense face reveals the truth.
Sun Jae’s smile flickers weakly, but it won’t stay long enough to mask the distress in his eyes.
Min Woo lightens the mood by playing the double suicide ending motif of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake –
where the lovers throw themselves into a lake in order to defeat the evil enchantment. La la.la. (This music director is killing me.) The Good guys, Hye Won’s secretary, Jong Soo, Hye Won and Sun Jae clean up after the ramen party in the kitchen. Hye Won’s secretary, who I love, warns Sun Jae to leave before the annoying Joon Hyung calls him again.
Hye Won asks them to leave him be. She looks guiltily at him, and he turns only slightly to get a look at her.
Joon Hyung is complaining about Sun Jae’s quintet, spouting the repertoire doesn’t fit Sun Jae. That while Brahms may have admired Dvorak, wasn’t his music a little too sentimental? Too sorrowful like a sob song. Ji Soo points out it is a matter of preference, though Joon Hyung disagrees.
Hye Won hasn’t spoken much at all through this party, trying to stay in the background.
After she brings in more wine, and deposits the bottles on the table, she leaves the room – “To go brush my teeth.” Her husband orders her to hurry back, then returns to his pompous lecture about how Dvorak is like trot music.
Wearily, Hye Won climbs her stairs, while sorrowfully Sun Jae watches her back from below her in the kitchen through a glass wall.
We pause now to acknowledge the perfection of this image. Once in the room, Hye Won fades against the wall, taking deep breaths then remains a moment. She walks towards the sink area, but something out of our sight catches her attention and she stops, and then cautiously approaches the bed.
Eyes fixed, she seems hesitant, but does finally reach for it. It’s the Russian Piano player book that Sun Jae has left out on the foot of her bed open to a specific page.
She picks it up and reads.
Joon Hyung pulls Sun Jae back to the torment of the party as predicted. Reluctantly, but obediently, he goes back in.
Hye Won reads, and we hear Sun Jae’s narration. “We leave in a car. The car the piano is loaded on follows. As if to avoid a plague on the highway, we drive on the local roads. We perform in the corner of a small town. It can be a theater or a school. The best part about it is that people come for the music alone not because of snobbery.” She flips back a few pages, and continues, “I’m not crazy. I’m normal. Perhaps, I want to be crazy.”
The words touch her and remind her of the wisdom she tried to pass to Sun Jae when he was desperate and alone, and she sits tearfully silent until Ji Soo joins her. “What are they looking for me again?” Ji Soo wants to know what is up with her friend, taken aback by Hye Won’s inability to handle this situation.
Hye Won admits it, and sinks back down onto the bed, rendered immobile.
Back downstairs, Joon Hyung’s bad temper has increased with his consumption of more alcohol. With Sun Jae silent on the sofa beside him, he grabs Hye Won and pulls her to his other side.
Then puts one heavy arm on each of their shoulders before chugging down a glass of wine. Mahjong secretary wearing that jerky grin watches, and Sun Jae, poor Sun Jae, absorbs blow after blow of indignity.
Prosecutor Husband has made himself comfortable with Mde Han and Young Woo in an office, reading off the soon to be published smear campaign against Hye Won.
“The title is ‘Seohan Arts Foundation Possibly Implicated…Comparisons between the art foundations management in Korea and the world.’” The plan, he explains, is to let the news out slowly without mentioning names at first. Mde Han opposes the vagueness; she wants it to be clear she is not being implicated. Young Woo wants to know how, exactly, they are going to make Hye Won guilty. Citing her resume, they will cast doubts on her experience, claiming her internship is untrue and that she plagiarized her Master’s thesis. Young Woo protests that the accusations are false, she knows since they lived together at the time.
Han reminds her that the accusations don’t have to be true to create an impression on people. Young Woo knows these weak tactics aren’t going to scare off Hye Won. Her husband states once the stories hit, they’ll see how she reacts. A phone call from Han brings a peon in with a document for Prosecutor Husband to examine. Young Woo wants to know what the heck the old lady is up to now (OK, my words), and Han responds that she compiled a document to scare off Hye Won. It’s a list of Hye Won’s corruptions. The very same piece of literature Da Mi saw. “To show her that woman who stole her lover is that kind of person.” Young Woo is disgusted, “You even took advantage of kids? You will be cursed.”
Han retorts, “I’m already a bundle of sins. What’s one more?”
Young Woo’s phone buzzes and she’s impressed by something, “Will you look at that.” Oh Hye Won and Kang Joon Hyung pretending to be a happy couple. Mahjong secretary has snuck off to report on the goings on at the party.
Joon Hyung, still book-ended by a miserable Hye Won and Sun Jae, is trying to feed his wife a strawberry. Hye Won resists this for as long as possible, but Joon Hyung won’t stop. She capitulates and takes it from the fork as Sun Jae gets up and leaves.
Prosecutor Husband and Han finalize their evil scheme to cross-reference the upcoming audits with the specifics of Han’s awful list. He encourages the two women to keep cooperating. Han reaches out her hand to Young Woo to shake, asserting, “We’re one happy family, aren’t we?” Young Woo doesn’t look like she agrees. Mde Han speculates that Joon Hyung and Hye Won only invited guests over to show off their marital bliss. “Why didn’t Young Woo go?” Because it wouldn’t be fun, duh.
Nice secretary tells Jong Soo she’s so nervous she can’t watch anymore. Joon Hyung’s acting on Min’s advice, like his puppet, and the TA feels bad. Nice secretary feels worse for Hye Won. Joon Hyung’s advanced state of drunkenness makes him even more ornery. Hearing Min Woo play in the other room, he complains that it isn’t even authentic jazz.
Jo humors him and calls out to Min Woo to stop. Sun Jae has found a measure of peace listening to the music, Jo finds him and tells him to hang in there that they will be leaving soon enough.
Min woo gets Joon Hyung’s instructions to play some classical music, so he starts on Twinkle Twinkle (which Mozart arranged several variations entitled “Ah, vous dirai-je Maman?”) Jo goes back to the leather sectional of Hell to see if Joon Hyung approves. He immediately wants to know if Sun Jae is in there, too. They all tell him to lay off, but he insists he needs to teach him a thing or two and attempts to get up.
We flash back to much much much happier times when beautiful happy Sun Jae plays his lovely version for Hye Won in the Piano room of love and hugs. I want to cry. Sun Jae has the same reaction listening to Min Woo fiddling around with the tune. He leans over in physical pain.
Min Woo’s Disneyfied Twinkle finishes,
and Sun Jae is obliged to step up to the challenge and play, only he looks like a lamb going to the slaughter. In a flash, I find tears in my eyes. Joon Hyung, seated next to a sickened Hye Won, yells to Sun Jae to “Show them!” Looking defiant, but complying at the keyboard in front of all the guests, he hears Kang shout again.
“I said, show them.” The drunken man can’t stand, and falls onto Hye Won while trying to. She slides away, horrified.
Sun Jae has begun his Twinkles. He starts fast and fancy and brittle. In the other room, Hye Won shoves a pillow under her husband’s head and hides behind a wall.
Las Vegas style Twinkle flows into a slightly heavier tone. Sun Jae looks determined to please the fussy Joon Hyung at any cost. Hye Won listens looking rightfully ashamed. Sun Jae’s playing takes a definitely darker turn, descending into something gloomy, furious and Beethoven-like.
It’s beautiful, but it hurts to listen. Sun Jae’s face shows pain, anger, hate.
The crushing chords strike the now sobbing Hye Won in the soul; she covers her ears.
Swirling away now away from complex chords, Sun Jae ends his display with a simple and devastating dirge.
Hye Won covers her mouth to hold in the grief.
The player, aching and raw, seems to have lost all hope, surprised at the depths he has fallen to wondering how he got there.
Thankfully, the party breaks up. The guests go outside, Jo kids about going to their house next to wake up the children for a family concert. Joon Hyung, plastered, can’t stand at all; he wonders where everyone went while the Ahjumma cleans up.
Ji Soo tries to comfort Sun Jae. “It was a punishing evening for you.” Min Woo says his good-byes, telling Sun Jae he’ll call when he returns.
Zombie Drunk Ass Stalker Rat makes his appearance and we hear Sun Jae turning down a ride home from Jo. Instead, Joon Hyung commands they give him the keys so he can drive the boy home, though he can’t stand long enough to finish the sentence. In a moment of sheer horror, Sun Jae tries to convince his professor to go inside, but Joon Hyung insists they drive him home. “PULL OUT THE CAR!” He screams, and Hye Won shuts him up by agreeing. Sun Jae asks Joon Hyung if he is all right. Somewhere deep in his sub-conscience, Joon Hyung’s brain gets the irony of the question, “You are asking if I am all right?”
The attempt to get Joon Hyung into the car fails. Once again Sun Jae has to pick up and carry the poor excuse for a man into the house.
Hye Won remains in the car, broken, crying, while Sun Jae with Ahjumma’s help dumps Joon Hyung on the sofa. The effort exhausts him. A contrite Hye Won greets Sun Jae in the entry to the garage.
The wretched young man’s wounded expression pains me to see. Hye Won can’t and won’t make eye contact. She shakes her head telling him she is ashamed, then reaches out to touch him.
“I asked you to do something really terrible. I thought wrongly. I was arrogant. I shouldn’t have done this.” Throughout her admission of guilt, Sun Jae looks sadly at her but doesn’t speak. She wants him to say something and tries to soften him with a kiss. He pulls back quickly, then weakly puts his hand on her shoulders and before pulling her close.
“Please don’t make yourself so pitiful. I can’t kiss a pitiful woman.” He steps back from her, squeezing her upper arm, telling her to go to sleep. Hye Won is confused and looks lost.
He gives her a concerned smile, but then another look passes – one of resolve.
Inside Hye Won is left alone to crawl into her own fetal position of agony. Outside, body-wracking sobs rip through Sun Jae, crouched against the wall his head buried in his arm.
The situation at the Seohan Foundation the next morning is calm office professionals handling a barrage of curious phone calls – denying the allegations – against Mde Han specifically. Nice secretary reads the headlines over Hye Won’s shoulder Oh Hye Won, vice CEO of Seohan Art Center, Seohan Arts Foundation’s Influential Heavyweight Behind the Scenes? She really doesn’t want her boss to read this,
and has blocked all incoming calls. The magazine editor comes in to commiserate. Hye Won sends her secretary out for some bubble tea. While ordering a very detailed beverage with percentages, she gets a call from Mahjong Secretary who is so utterly ridiculous in her delusions of grandeur, I have to laugh at her rather than hate her. Nice secretary wants to hurl the Peach Green Tea at her lying face, but delivers the beverage dutifully,
hearing as she walks away in disgust, “It’s not completely different from the truth…Connect these calls to Hye Won.”
In the office, Hye Won’s friend wants her to defend herself adamantly against the foul charges. The purpose of the visit is made clear – the interview will not be published,
at least not anytime soon, and they are very sorry. Hye Won graciously tells her not to worry about it. Nice Secretary is texting – Jong Soo maybe? : Did you see the article? We’re totally swamped over here.”
Ugh Seo is dressed in hospital pajamas, complaining he didn’t want to have his picture taken in these clothes. Han agrees, but continues to button him into them.
Young Woo’s demanding to know why Hye Won isn’t in jail already in his place like he said? He asks about Hye Won’s affair with a younger man. “A 20 year old!” Young Woo adds, enviously, I think. Wise for once, Prosecutor Husband suggests not throwing that stone too hastily. Since the house they are living in is completely made of glass, and Oh Hye Won is well aware of that. No one dissents. Ugh Seo completes his disguise with a face mask and they walk out.
Han stops Young Woo, whispering maybe it’s time for her to get rid of her younger BF, “It’s embarrassing.” and Young Woo insults her calling her an old serpent.
Han arrives at the office. Mahjong lets her in announcing Baek’s presence, and then asks for an official Q&A document for all the calls flooding in. Han berates her – she should be able to take care of that on her own.
So Mahjong jumps right on it, and returns to her desk to work on…her Mahjong book and online instructions –
fiddling while Rome burns. Nice.
Baek reports how difficult it is to figure out exactly what Hye Won did with all the money – she must have distributed funds over several accounts.
Han sees it won’t be as easy as they maybe assumed. She calls Min, as is her habit, to put pressure on Joon Hyung.
For the 100th time, Min calls in the gullible goof Joon Hyung. With extremely twisted logic I am not attempting to understand, Min suggests he help by suing Hye Won for adultery. Penal code 241. Only the spouse can make the charge. We know Joon Hyung doesn’t want that. AT ALL. The only way to pay for her sins and play the martyr is to go to jail. Joon Hyung is as confused as I am.
Hye Won is back to business as usual, planning master classes with her staff, and telling them to keep their spirits up. She gets an invite out to dinner with Joon Hyung who feigns concern that she is having a hard time.
She makes a call to someone she speaks politely to “So I am thinking of going today, so I can show you my face.” Hmmmm…
She is interrupted by the lovely Ji Soo who comes in with a bottle or two for her fridge.
Hye Won finishes the call making a 4PM appointment starting with a massage. The articles worry Ji Soo, and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Her advice is to keep the act up with Joon Hyung, while soothing Sun Jae. She cautions the most horrible thing in the world is a witch-hunt, especially with every citizen in South Korea being a judge. Hye Won injects some levity by inviting her to go along for a massage, but the mom can’t. Ji Soo tells her she needs to heed her advice and that she is on Hye Won’s side, and they part Hye Won kissing her friend’s cheek.
Hye Won drops the bravado for a moment and promises to listen.
At the salon, Hye Won requests to see Da Mi. She waits, sipping juice listening to the soothing sounds of easy listening strings. Da Mi arrives looking less fierce than the last time, and bows formally.
Hye Won wants to make up. Da Mi has heard a lot of bad things, including that she could be arrested. Mostly, Hye Won wants to know what exactly it was Da Mi saw that made her want to puke. The girl hesitates, “It wasn’t pictures or anything.” We see the flashback of a hand off of an envelope that came down from a highly place person who thinks Da Mi needed to see it. Reading it pissed the young girl off so bad, she went to Hye Won’s office. “Good job.” Hye Won smiles. “I…I told Sun Jae…that if you threw away everything and went to him then I’d believe it.” Hye Won says she’s impressed and Da Mi tells her she meant it.
Hye Won requests Da Mi show Sun Jae the evil document. She must show it to him. She leaves without a shampoo. The stylist is professionally tightlipped about the scandal.
Hye Won wonders how the woman can be like that, but the stylist claims she has to “live without ears to stay in business.” The stylist offers to give her more volume since Hye Won informs her she is meeting with her husband later. For one who lives without ears, she does manage to get information.
Joon Hyung awaits his wife, torn, it seems about something. He gets up to watch a very glamorous and sexy lady ushered in by the waiter. The sight of her makes him smile. He asks the waiter to quietly open the Dom, of course, Pérignon.
Sun Jae is rehearsing with the Misfit 5; they share snacks and drinks afterward. He seems relaxed, if not exactly happy.
Kang is blah blah blahing about why musicians can make a political difference. Hye Won tells him dryly that he is being lofty.
The subject is changed to the purpose of the dinner. “To others…I may look strange. Everyone in the world suspects adultery between my wife and my pupil. But I’m the one that’s happy. There’s something they don’t know though. How much did Schumann cherish Brahms?” She listens stone-faced to him.
Hye Won recognizes she is Clara Schumann in this story and that it is Min behind this.
What he suggests is that she serve the time in jail, while he watches over Sun Jae, even sending him abroad if he wants. He would hate to have that beautiful kid accused of the crime of adultery – it would ruin him. Hye Won rejects this. The situation is crazy. How can they as a married couple be talking like this?
She tells him, wearily, if he is patient, he can get what he wants, and then calls for the check.
The kids walk out from their practice, Cello girl heard he would pass the preliminaries for the competition no problem, and he tells her he heard she was going to quit school. She asks “Don’t you think its better to avoid a fight when one can’t win?” He isn’t sure about that but until she quits, doesn’t she want to do well with this quintet? All of them would like to, and they hope Sun Jae does, too.
He promises he will, and smiles genuinely. But what about his professor, the preliminaries, his scholarship? None of it matters, except this. He assures her again, he will continue with them.
Once home, Joon Hyung has thrown his subtle helpful approach out completely, shouting at Hye Won to turn herself in immediately. Now it is Hye Won’s turn to be slumped over.
She brings her head up only to cry. Joon Hyung takes his sleeping pill and his rage out on Hye Won’s rows of cosmetics, knocking them onto the floor.
The investigation, we find out from Prosecutor Husband could become lengthy if Hye Won doesn’t comply soon. He tells Han that the source of funds for Seohan Apparel would be revealed. Despite Han’s lack of shame and remorse and the fact that Prosecutor Husband admires her for it, time is running out.
They have to use some pretty rough tactics to flush Hye Won out. They have to inflict the most painful shame before any legal maneuvers. Han bets that the lovers won’t be able to resist meeting and soon. I hate her and her smug knowing smile. Prosecutor makes a call to put a 24/7 watch out on the lovers.
The three best friends ever snack on hard-boiled eggs and casually discuss the secrets a woman who could become one of the most hunted criminals of their time. Jang Ho has read all the bad things Hye Won is accused of, but Sun Jae doesn’t feel it’s necessary for him.
He asks, “Do you have to read what’s written to know?” But it shocked Jang Ho enough to call her a rotten bitch. There were accusations that she stole from janitorial staff, brokering illegal admissions and embezzlement. None of this moves Sun Jae. He could be kicked out of school, be forced to pay back scholarship money, too. Whatever. Sun Jae takes off – saying good-bye to the Ahjumma. His friends watch him open mouthed, yelling ”Yah!” and not for the last time, I am guessing. Even the ahjumma doesn’t think Hye Won seemed like that kind of person. Da Mi describes Hye Won as the picture of elegance.
Notsomuch now, as Hye Won sucks down scotch in her kitchen.
The life being squeezed out of her from all sides. She pours another and downs that. A text comes in from Sun Jae. He’s outside. She considers it, leans on the counter, and then holds her hand to her chest, looking anxiously at the message, then towards the door.
Outside, Sun Jae awaits, helmet on, looking like a 12 year old who had his puppy stolen.
“There was a door
And I could not open it. I could not touch the handle.
Why could I not walk out of my prison?”
―T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
Yeah well, there you go, Hye Won, you and your husband managed to create for Sun Jae The Cocktail Party from Hell. Those were the most excruciating opening moments of an episode ever. A waking nightmare from which there was no escape. It was more than the roadside accident you couldn’t look away from, since you were thrust into the middle of the suffering, trapped as Sun Jae. It was like looking at a painting that was stabbing you repeatedly and we let it. I have played and replayed the 2 minutes 43 seconds of the “Twinkle Twinkle” variation to allow me to feel all that pain again. My 150+ screen captures of just that one scene at the piano draw me over and over to find yet another nuanced emotion on Yoo Ah In’s face. I have been relishing this exquisite agony for days.
What is next? Does Hye Won allow herself to be ambushed by Bad Seohan? Who the heck is the person she called from her office that she wanted to go see? Will all her careful planning fall apart because as Han predicted, she can’t live a day without a taste of joy with Sun Jae? What is going through Sun Jae’s mind now? How has his perception of Hye Won changed? I don’t think he had her on a pedestal recently. Once she allowed him to see her weak side, Sun Jae realized the woman he loves is far from perfect. Can they find the strength to endure the upcoming turmoil and one day recapture their too brief moments of shared calm and pleasure? Can they live happily ever after? I say yes and yes and yes!
❀ ✿ ❀
I know there are some folks out there reading the recaps, or hearing abut SLA from other sites, but not watching it. Hopefully, eventually it will be recognized as something you cannot afford to miss. In South Korea, I can guarantee there is not a single actor, writer, director, lighting person, or sound engineer who is not watching this show, and scrutinizing every detail of Yoo Ah In’s scenes. Forget ratings and any concern about the subject matter, or that the audience isn’t interested in an “artsy” dramas compared to the hyped ones that get all the attention. Despite that, those jaded and overworked citizens of Korean TVland are marveling over the power of his performance as Lee Sun Jae. Long after 2014 has ended, and YAI is off in the army and back again working in other productions, his character and how he portrayed it will be dissected, discussed and held up as THE example of how this job is supposed to be done with honesty, hard work and humility. I am so happy he got his chance to shine.