There are so many secrets and mysteries in My Secret Hotel to thicken the plot but I’m in no rush to have the drama show hand on any of them. The central romance with its bickering tension and totally open longing for each other is more than enough to carry this drama along on a great pace. I’ve seen my fair share of a fantastic episode 1 that tanked swiftly by episode 2, which makes me let out a sigh of relief that MSH built on its fantastic first episode to barrel full steam ahead with another packed hour of entertainment. One important element I love about this drama is the mood, tiny bits of macabre and mystery abound like shifty people and unclear threats, but there is a light in the darkness that transitions nicely between the disparate elements. It’s both dreamy and moody with a dollop of both blended nicely together. One necessary reveal was the unsurprising news that Hae Young and Sang Hyo likely broke up due to a misunderstanding (or deliberate third party sabotage) that wasn’t tackled head on leaving both with massive regrets and bottled up simmering feelings for each other. Watching them glare with anger or longing at each other hits all my squee buttons.
There is a tiny hitch about this drama that is worth mentioning – the screenwriter Kim Ye Ri wrote the first four episodes of My Secret Hotel before passing sadly away due to cancer and in her place a second screenwriter Kim Do Hyun was brought in to finish the rest of the script. Kim Ye Ri only had two works to her name – the nobody watched hot mess Heading to the Ground with Yunho and Go Ara and the many people watched addicting but qualitatively incoherent Lie to Me. LTM is one of my fave dramas and Kim Ye Ri was actually removed midway through that drama’s low-rated run to be replaced by another writer. But most viewers fell in love with LTM for the first eight episodes which she penned and I can see the same LTM chemistry exploding mood exhibited here in MSH. Saying a rest in peace for writer Kim is first and foremost on my mind, as well as a hope that the second writer can do her drama justice and finish it with as much flair as the first two episodes were written by writer Kim. While MSH has the real life sad story behind the scenes, so far the actual drama is everything I wanted and more from the quirky premise.
Episode 2 recap:
The anticipation of Hae Young changing his wedding venue gets Sang Hyo’s hopes up that she won’t have to plan her ex-husband’s second wedding. She eagerly hands over the cancellation contract and explains the terms but Hae Young’s mind is on his mistaken assumption that Sang Hyo proposed to another guy and is herself planning to get married. Sang Hyo can tell his mind is elsewhere but before she can get his signature on the cancellation Hae Young announces that he’s not cancelling holding the wedding here after all. He dramatically tears up the cancellation contract and asks Sang Hyo to take care of the wedding.
Gyung Hee is pleased the wedding is back on but Sang Hyo keeps asking if Hae Young won’t change his mind and why he has faith the wedding will be done right here. Hae Young is particularly willing to place his faith in Sang Hyo to handle it and she grinds her heel on his foot while plastering a smile to her face to ask him whether he won’t come to regret it? Hae Young shoves her foot off and announces that he has no regrets at all. Sang Hyo whispers whether he wants to die and Hae Young makes a quick getaway.
Sang Hyo chases him through the hotel and he adorably hides behind a pillar to evade her before darting out to scare her. He scurries off while Sang Hyo composes herself and yells in frustration. She asks Gyung Hee for an umbrella and then uses it to sneak her way to the parking garage to harass Hae Young some more.
Hae Young is pleased like a prankster kid that his announcement that the wedding is back on at the hotel totally startled Sang Hyo and that was the reaction she should have had when she first heard he was getting married. He’s then freaked out when Sang Hyo sneaks by under a red umbrella and then climbs into his car and uses the umbrella to order him to drive. Hae Young mutters that her nagging personality is the same 7 years ago and now 7 years later.
The exes park by the river to have a pow-wow and Hae Young tries to smack her with the umbrella but darts away when Sang Hyo glares at him. She asks if this is a time to joke and he thinks its perfectly fine to joke. She thinks it absurd for his ex-wife to plan his second wedding but he doesn’t think so and suggests she should embrace this rare opportunity. Sang Hyo punches him in the face and he goes flying back into the car.
After getting in that punch Sang Hyo picks up her umbrella and declares that she will do it and then marches off angrily. Hae Young gets into his car and honks at her a few times as he drives past while she tosses her umbrella angrily at him. Hae Young checks his cheek for the bruise and then wonders if leaving Sang Hyo behind is fine but thinks it is since she throws a mean punch. Sang Hyo is upset that Hae Young is still the same 7 years later, leaving her just like that. She crouches down and thinks to herself “how long did I end up waiting?”
Hae Young turns the car around but by the time he gets back Sang Hyo is no longer there. She’s sitting by the riverbanks thinking about the past while ignoring his call. He gets out of the call and looks around but she’s neither there nor picking up his call and that frustrates him. Hae Young runs off to find Sang Hyo but she’s already gotten into a cab to head back to Secret Hotel. Hae Young’s running around leaves him empty handed and he mutters that she couldn’t possibly wait for him, just like she didn’t wait 7 years ago.
Sang Hyo goes back to her office and finds someone walking in Director Jo’s office and she wonders why he’s working late. We see someone is rifling through the dark with flashlight looking for something and turns out its weird Manager Hwang.
Sung Gym walks into his office the next morning and can tell immediately that something is off. He summons his assistant Simon and asks if anyone entered his office. Simon is certain no one did so Sung Gyum calls down to the security guard room. Simon checks Sung Gyum’s computer and tells him that nothing has been touched. Sung Gyum is upset there is no way to confirm it and angrily points out that he smells something unpleasant.
He goes down to the security room and check the CCTV cameras but the head security guard has already removed the footage of Manager Hwang leaving Sung Gyum’s office and taken it to the general affairs manager GM Lee. Sung Gyum wonders why the CCTV recording went out and another security guard makes the excuse that the cameras are old so this happens on occasion.
Sung Gyum encounters GM Lee and brings up someone entering his office last night looking for something. GM Lee claims to know nothing and if he did he wouldn’t say anything anyways.
Hae Young is stewing in his office and ignores repeated texts from his Soo Ah to come out. His colleague Yoo Shi Chan comes by and berates him for not dressing better when he’s about to get married and then notices the bruise on his cheek. He informs Hae Young that the library design project has come down to them and a rival that underbid them last time. Shi Chan wants to win this one no matter what and refuses to sit by and be looked down upon. That reminds Hae Young that he never takes a punch and lays down so he decides to fight back. He gets up to join Soo Ah at the wedding planning and is excited again.
Soo Ah sits with Sang Hyo and Gyung Hee to discuss the wedding planning and boasts about how her oppa is the best about everything and is too busy to come. Hae Young barges in and claims that he’s here because he’s worried about his baby Soo Ah and wants the wedding to be perfect. Soo Ah snuggles in his arms and Hae Young pats his chest and tells Soo Ah that she’s always in his heart. Soo Ah notices the bruise on his face which Hae Young chalks up to a crazy person smacking him for no reason. Sang Hyo has enough of Hae Young’s goading and leads the couple to check out the ballroom.
Hae Young immediately derides the ballroom as not as fancy as Sang Hyo claimed it was. He then cups Soo Ah’s cheeks and compliments her V-line face and then gestures over to Sang Hyo for her non V-line face. Gyung Hee assures Hae Young that it’ll look better at second glance and Hae Young isn’t so sure about that. Sang Hyo cackles that Hae Young sure talks like someone who is familiar with weddings, almost like he’s been married before. Soo An immediately scrunches up her face while Hae Young asks back if Sang Hyo has been married before?
Gyung Hee speaks up that Manager Nam isn’t married and Hae Young insults her as looking like she’s been married many times before. If not then she’s just pretending that she’s been married before to plan weddings. Hae Young decides to call a truce and shows Sang Hyo his bruise while extending his hand for a shake. Sang Hyo acts like she’s about to take his hand back when she darts away to take a call and leave him stewing there. Gyung Hee distracts Soo Ah by offering to show them the honeymoon suite for after the wedding.
Soo Ah giddily checks out the honeymoon suite with Hae Young trailing behind her. Hae Young wonders to Gyung Hee why Manager Nam’s call is taking so long since he wants to finish their talk. Soo Ah pushes Hae Young on the bed and straddles him while puckering her lips for a kiss. Hae Young desperately tries to get her off him while Gyung Hee averts her eyes. Hae Young is rescued by a perfectly timed call and he pushes a shrieking Soo Ah off the bed.
Hae Young steps outside to take Sang Hyo’s call and she’s upset that he didn’t tell Soo Ah that he was married before. Where is his decency? Hae Young snarks back that she’s hidden all her decency at work and Sang Hyo retorts that she’s not getting married soon so its different. Hae Young wonders if he should bust her past at work and she doesn’t care since her job doesn’t care about her marital status. Hae Young brings up the strange rumor at Secret Hotel where couples get married after three months and wouldn’t the public be shocked to hear that the hotel wedding coordinator has herself gotten married and divorced after three months? Sang Hyo screams at him while he snaps back that she needs to stop pushing and then hangs up on him. This whole conversation has been heard by Manager Hwang hiding around the corner.
As Soo Ah drives off with Hae Young, she is chafing at how he pushed her off the bed and then asks about the girl he was married to before. So Soo Ah knows he’s divorced but nothing else. She wants to know what the ex-wife looks like and Hae Young quietly says she’s very pretty which shuts Soo Ah up and she doesn’t want to know anything else.
Sang Hyo is totally out of it for the rest of the day at work and her colleagues find her doodling on a paper. Gyung Hee, Young Mi, and Gi Chul come by and invite her out for a getogether especially since she seems so stressed. Sang Hyo declines but ends up going anyway and singing her heart out at a noraebang and screaming about a bastard ex in song. Young Mi is annoyed that Sang Hyo ended up coming while Gyung Hee is happy to see this side of Sang Hyo. Young Mi continues to be a snitty bitch and Manager Hwang tells her to lighten up otherwise she’ll grow eye wrinkles and never get married. Young Mi storms off and Manager Hwang also leaves.
Young Mi goes outside for a smoke all the while bitching about how everyone at the hotel likes Sang Hyo. She hears someone calling for Hwang Dong Bae and peers into the alley to find the general affairs manager walking up for a secret chat. Gi Chul notices Young Mi and Manager Hwang being gone for awhile and suggests Gyung Hee sing the next song but she demurs claiming she can’t sing.
Manager Hwang and the GM Lee have it out over whatever secret is binding them, with GM Lee claiming that he won’t endure anymore. Manager Hwang knows he can’t do anything to him but claims this won’t end unless he dies. GM Lee warns Manager Hwang one more time before leaving. Young Mi turns to walk off when suddenly someone grabs her by the hair and it looks like Manager Hwang.
Manager Hwang is at a poker game when another player claims to have won the hand. Manager Hwang stabs the man through the hand when he leans over to take in the money. He tells the other players to pack up the cash and leaves with the money.
Young Mi arrives at work and Sang Hyo finds her standing in the office in a looking around and her eyes land on her purse. She makes the excuse that she had to leave early but Sang Hyo wonders what the situation was since she left her bag behind. After Sang Hyo leaves the office, Young Mi continues to look around.
Sang Hyo finds two hotel employees in the elevator when it opens and the girl inside darts out. Sang Hyo gets in the elevator and the sleazy manager checks out Sang Hyo before stepping close to ask if anything is wrong. Sang Hyo pretends to knee him and warns that if he harasses another female employee then he’s dead. He claims there is no proof and Sang Hyo points to the surveillance camera in the elevator.
A bunch of gangsters (the ones Manager Hwang played poker with) arrive at Secret Hotel asking for an employee who is around 50 years old with a mustache. Manager Hwang sees them in the lobby and hides behind a pillar.
Sang Hyo and Gyung Hee go through the check list for the wedding tomorrow between Hae Young and Soo Ah. All that’s left is a walk through rehearsal and Sang Hyo asks if Gyung Hee can handle it. Gyung Hee begs off claiming she needs to go to the hospital to get the test for a recent exam. Sang Hyo lets Gyung Hee go and handles the walk through herself.
On her way to the ballroom, she runs into security guard Cha and asks if he’s found the purse thief from the last wedding and hears there is no progress on that. Hae Young spots Sang Hyo walking with Cha and asks Young Mi if he’s Director Jo Sung Gyum? He heard that Manager Nam proposed to Director Jo. Soo Ah perks up at this gossip and derides Manager Nam as having no self-respect if she would propose to the guy. Hae Young reminds Soo Ah that she proposed to him which gets her to change the subject and rush into the ballroom for the walk through.
Gi Chul acts as the announcer and calls for the groom to walk down the aisle. Hae Young looks at Sang Hyo who whispers for him to not take such big steps and then he strides off. Sang Hyo flashes back and we see Hae Young and Sang Hyo pulling up in a convertible outside a remote church. They stare at each other with big fat grins and Sang Hyo wonders if they should turn back around because this is crazy. They run towards the church hand-in-hand.
Gi Chul calls the bride to enter and Soo Ah excitedly gets ready and has Manager Hwang stand in for the father-of-the-bride to walk her down the aisle. Hae Young only has eyes for Sang Hyo as Soo Ah walks down the aisle. He remembers back to pacing nervously outside in a gazebo with the priest as Sang Hyo walks down the aisle.
Hae Young’s eyes light up when he sees Sang Hyo walking towards him. She joins him in the gazebo and in the present Hae Young takes Soo Ah’s hand and leads her up the stage. Hae Young and Sang Hyo flash back to saying their vows to marry and love each other forever. The priest pronounces them husband and wife and they kiss passionately in the romantic waning light.
Back in the present, Hae Young turns around from the stage to thank the guests after he’s said his mock vows with Soo Ah but he still only has eyes for Sang Hyo. She finally can’t take it anymore and walks out of the ballroom and Hae Young is totally affected but Soo Ah thinks he’s angry at Sang Hyo giving them attitude.
Sang Hyo cries in the bathroom and chides herself for getting emotional over this. She wipes her tears and gets herself back together. Eun Joo walks Hae Young and Soo Ah out after the walk through and Hae Young wonders where Manager Nam went? Eun Joo doesn’t know either since she can’t be found and isn’t answering her calls. She asks if Hae Young needs Sang Hyo for anything and Hae Young asks Eun Joo to thank Sang Hyo for everything she did together. He gets in the elevator and after the door closes Eun Joo grouses about why this guy is looking for Sang Hyo.
Hae Young goes to a bar to drink his frustrations away while Sang Hyo is working through her lingering issues over Hae Young. Manager Hwang finds her brooding and speaks up, suggesting she fight and get her ex-husband Gu Hae Young back. He offers to ruin the wedding tomorrow and suggests that he’s helping because she’s Manager Nam. They ought to mutually help each other. Sang Hyo pushes his aside and storms off but is crying by the time she bumps into Sung Gyum. Hae Young calls Shi Chan to the bar to pay since he can’t find his wallet. Shi Chan asks where he lost it but Hae Young doesn’t know.
Sung Gyum sits outside with a calmed down Sang Hyo and asks why she was crying earlier? Sang Hyo speaks in the third person about a friend who 7 years ago married a man she was crazy in love with but the marriage didn’t last 100 days. Hae Young continues the story to Shi Chan talking about running into that woman he would remember until the day he died. Sang Hyo thought she forgot it all but it’s all still in her mind. Same goes for Hae Young, he has never forgotten. Sang Hyo is so tired now and Hae Young doesn’t know what to do.
Sang Hyo and Hae Young both ask if they are being idiots? Sung Gyum says no while Shi Chan encourages Hae Young to go to that woman immediately and talk it out. He needs to confirm certain things so he can move forward. Sung Gyum tells Sang Hyo that if a man truly loved a woman he would always find her. So her friend needs to wait and if the man still loved her then he will find a way to contact her. Sang Hyo shakes her head sadly, she knows he won’t do it.
Sang Hyo changes the topic and asks to hear one secret from Sung Gyum since she shared a friend’s secret with him. We see Hae Young jumping out of a cab as it pulls up outside Secret Hotel and running inside to look for Sang Hyo. He looks inside the dark event planning office and hears someone crying. He walks in and finds Gyung Hee crying and he quickly apologizes.
Next he finds Manager Hwang talking on the phone about a strange fate and why he’s still at the hotel. He asks where Sang Hyo….no where Manager Nam is? Manager Hwang says she must still be on the premises since she left her phone in the office. Manager Hwang wishes Hae Young luck and then goes back to his call. Hae Young pauses as he’s walking away to listen to Manager Hwang continue his conversation. He warns the other person for daring to hang up the phone on him, if he’s not interested then Manager Hwang will speak with his son.
Sung Gyum tells Sang Hyo that he works at Secret Hotel because he wants to work at the same place as his dad. But he claims his dad died 30 years ago when he was just 5 years old so he has no memory of him. Sung Gyum teases Sang Hyo for looking sad about his plight and wonders if she is ready to pity him? Sang Hyo tosses back that she was adopted overseas so her backstory isn’t any better.
The two of them laugh and Sung Gyum confirms she’s feeling better. He jokes that they’ve grown a tiny bit closer now that they’ve shared mutual secrets with each other. Sang Hyo look around deep in thought while Sung Gyum looks rather taken with her. The camera pulls back and we see Hae Young staring sadly at this tableau before leaving without taking to Sang Hyo. A receptionist at the hotel counter finds an envelope at the front desk and wonders who left it there.
It’s wedding day and an oblivious Soo Ah is surrounded by her friends and excited. The girl who told Hae Young to take responsibility for her arrives and glares at Soo Ah before storming off. The timeline connects back to the beginning of episode 1 where Sang Hyo walks through the hotel in last minute preparations for the wedding.
A hotel staffer brings Sung Gyum room service and chides him for spending even his day off at the hotel. She hands him the envelope we saw left at the front desk. He opens it to find a note that reads “I know who killed your dad.” He tries to brush it off as a bad joke but immediately goes back and reads it again. Sang Hyo finds an angry and hung over Hae Young resting in the groom’s lounge and offers him tea. Sung Gyum goes to his office and asks his assistant to find out who other than GM Lee worked at this hotel back in 1983.
Hae Young is all bristly towards Sang Hyo as she asks if anything is amiss? He points out that there is no reason for him to be upset since this isn’t some impromptu wedding but is instead all planned out by Sang Hyo. She calmly replies that she tried her best and Hae Young repeats that statement. Sang Hyo says it again and adds that she did it with sincerity. Hae Young and Sang Hyo starefest gets broken up when Young Mi announces that the groom is needed since the wedding is started. Hae Young walks off and after he rounds the corner is when Sang Hyo loses her composure and sits down on the ground. She knocks the tea over that she brought for Hae Young but he didn’t drink.
Sung Gyum broods alone thinking back to why someone would claim his dad was murdered?
Hae Young walks down the aisle while Sang Hyo stands to the side seeing him stride past him. She thinks to himself that it’s finally ended between them and wishes Hae Young well. Hae Young pauses before he reaches the front as a drop of blood falls on his shoe followed by a body shattering the ceiling glass and plopping dead in front of him.
The freaked out wedding guests run screaming from the ballroom while only Sang Hyo runs towards Hae Young. She sees the dead body and thinks back to Manager Hwang offering to disrupt the wedding if she wants him to. Sang Hyo looks up at Hae Young who stares right back at her.
Thoughts of Mine:
I talked about the screenwriters involved in My Secret Hotel but the PD also deserves a call out for doing a smashing job with the fluid visuals. I find this drama so gorgeous to behold, and it’s the kind of beauty that feels slightly off kilter and not too perfectly rendered. This i s PD Hong Jong Chan’s first head director gig and he worked as the assistant director for the lovely Tamra the Island as well as the weird but sleek Dr. Stranger. The costume designer also needs an immediate bonus for making Yoo In Na the prettiest I’ve ever seen from her. She’s way prettier here than dressed like a movie star in You From Another Star or Queen In Hyun’s Man. Her outfits are to-die-for and perfectly figure flattering. It’s also great that her character is viewed as gorgeous rather than have us pretend she’s plain, but her being beautiful and stylish isn’t focused on at the expense of showing us that she’s great at her job and mostly a consummate professional. I think we can forgive her for losing her cool around Hae Young, especially since she asked him repeatedly to call off the wedding at her hotel but he purposely did it to goad a reaction out of her.
It’s nice to have divorced couple that doesn’t start off hating each other’s guts, or at least acting like they hate each other. Hae Young and Sang Hyo are angry at each other but their anger is clearly packaged with unresolved feelings. They also speak volumes with their eyes already and both should be able to see it clearly if they had the courage to act on those feelings. It makes for reunion and reconciliation less about falling in love again, or seeing each other in a new grown up light. By all accounts both are still the same personality, the very bits of each other that made them fall in love in the first love. Their impetuousness that led to the elopement, the way Hae Young can be so immature, and then Sang Hyo gives as good as she gets. I don’t blame Hae Young for getting his goat up and holding the wedding at Secret Hotel. His fiancee picked it and as a professional Sang Hyo ought to have just done it to begin with even knowing the groom was Hae Young. Taking into account a divorce that happened 7 years ago, and neither have reached out to the other, then it is conceivable that Sang Hyo planning the wedding might be awkward but shouldn’t be an emotional burden. But we know their marriage ended in name but the feelings have never gone away so that is why Sang Hyo hurts. The best kicker is that Hae Young appears even more pained by his decision to go ahead with the wedding and that’s what made his behavior both forgivable and a great backfiring plot device.
There are so many mysteries it’s not even worth discussion theories at this point. GM Lee and shady Manager Hwang’s tense relationship, Sung Gyum’s dead dad who may or may not have been murdered, Gyung Hee being sick or hiding something, Young Mi roped into being a spy or saboteur perhaps, Hae Young getting embroiled in the hotel mess by overhearing Manager Hwang’s threatening call and then having the dead body nearly fall on him, all those missing wallets around the hotel, why the security guards are doing GM Lee’s dirty leg work, even adorable plucky Sang Hyo’s background is unclear if she’s really just a random Korean baby adopted overseas to the US or there is a birth secret to mine later on. I love it all! It’s weird and weirdly funny the way it’s all interwoven. Too bad Eun Joo had minimal screentime in this episode because she’s also a fun character to watch and I hope she remains a frenemy to Sang Hyo. I don’t ship anything about Sang Hyo and Sung Gyum so I hope the ambitious Eun Joo wins his hand in the end while Sang Hyo gets to make out with her hot smexy ex-husband and get remarried and finally make dem babies!