Secret Love Affair : Episodes 1-2 (ooh, this is good!)

so good!This is one of those dramas that if I weren’t live watching I’d watch it all in one go. Screw obligations and sleep and the ever-present to-do list. Just sink deep into this world and stay there until it’s done with me. If it comes anywhere close to living up to these first two episodes this drama will own me body and soul.

[Spoilers for episodes 1 and 2. Also, it’s really long]

Kim Hee-ae owns me completely already. I am so, so glad I watched A Wife’s Credentials before Secret Love Affair started up. It means I can fully appreciate how damn good she is at her craft. Thus far I’d say the story is mainly from her point of view. We can judge music by how she’s listening to it and people by her interactions with them. And I love watching her. listeningShe’s contained and elegant, but also warm and charming, with a killer sense of humor she’s not afraid to use as a weapon or a shield.

First thing that surprised me: I expected, from the advertising and press releases, that her character, Oh Hye-won, was going to be a wealthy woman. A member of the elite with all the power that implies. Instead, Hye-won is a servant of the elite, which is an entirely different ball of wax. Yes, she’s wealthy, but it’s salaried wealth — finite and losable. And her job is deeply dependent on pleasing the actual elite. Whom, we’ve seen, have their own agendas and wars.

I am fascinated by the two women Hye-won is dancing between. At this point I rather like Chairwoman Han. She seems semi-reasonable. At least she’s not hitting people. Which is a huge and obvious strike against Seo Young-woo. But I wonder if it’s a bit too obvious? I do feel twinges of sympathy for her. From time to time. There’s a little-girl-lost aspect to Young-woo that pings me at some moments. So their battle is intriguing.


Because nothing says “I should be the one in charge!” like a bare midriff.
(The utter cluelessness begs for my sympathy.)

In the end though, I’m firmly on Hye-won’s side. (I feel like her dream is to be the one running the Seo Han Arts Foundation and, from what little I’ve seen, she’s definitely the best one for the job.)

The two powerful men are still rather shadowy to me. Chairman Seo is the one with the most power, but I can’t read who he’s truly behind. (I’m suspecting “the winner” would be his answer.) Chancellor Min is a dark horse. I feel like he’s on the school’s side, which makes me think he’s for Hye-won. But that’s more my gut instinct and the love I have for Kim Chang-wan. (The exciting thing about him is he will play villains — and sneaky ones at that.)

Professor KangAnd then there’s the second thing that surprised me: Professor Kang. The weak and foolish husband of Hye-won. I was not expecting him to be so impotent or for their marriage to be such a farce. (The dinner where Hye-won’s laughing with her friends and pointing out that her “enviable” life comes with Professor Kang so essentially, “be careful what you wish for,” was both hilarious and sad. And begged the question: so why did you marry him?)

dinner with friends

He has no idea how to work with people. At all. Even when Chancellor Min blatantly  tells him, “You need to learn mahjong and suck up to the Chairman,” Professor Kang doesn’t seem to get it. Which makes me think he’s a crap teacher — in his position more by Young-woo’s graces than any skill of his own (which begs the question: what on earth does she see in him?). So I really, really, really dislike the idea of him getting his hands on Lee Sun-jae.

Which brings me to our other star: Yoo Ah-in. Finally, finally, finally a role he can sink his dramatic chops into! (I adored Jang Ok Jung: Live for Love, mind. But that was a melo role and didn’t call for the level of subtlety Yoo Ah-in not only excels at but also brings out his best work.) The scene where Professor Kang’s assistant asked for a discount on his delivery — I loved Sun-jae’s very deadpan look of “no” that didn’t even need verbalizing.
no. And that moment he found out Hye-won is married to Professor Kang…

Okay — that leads me to the romance. Which isn’t quite on the table yet, and I love that. Hye-won’s fascinated by Sun-jae, but solely for his musical ability. At least, that’s all that she’s recognizing as intriguing her at the moment. I loved that her first view of him was of his hands. (I don’t think she even heard his playing at that point.) And that her first interaction with him was her pretending to be a young, unemployed, male grad-student.

watchingWhereas, Sun-jae’s first (known) interaction with Hye-won was his seeing her react to music. He recognized her, and admired her I think, as a listener. That’s why he was so moved by her listening to his playing and then acknowledging his skills. Sun-jae has been thirsting for a listener. Every time someone mentions his playing the first thing he asks is, “How was I?” Hye-won is the first one to answer. And definitely the first to answer knowledgeably.

assessingSo, at the moment, I think Hye-won’s interest is still more Apollonian (reasonable and logical) than Dionysian (emotional and passionate). Of course, it’s the unbridled emotion of his playing that moves her to tears (and had her cherishing the memory after he’d left) — but she’s still coming at it from a logical place. He’s a worthy student and will make for a powerful playing piece in the game she’s so deeply invested in.

But Sun-jae… At first I thought he was just as intellectually moved. Yes, there was deep emotion in his excitement of being really, truly listened to — but I thought it was still rooted in the Apollonian side of things. Until he pictured them playing their duet in the golden light of his bedroom.
bedroom dream
Until he reacted with that flash of jealousy when Professor Kang claimed Hye-won as his wife. Those were very Dionysian responses. I still doubt he’s thinking of Hye-won romantically — but he’s definitely thinking of her passionately.

(I’m actually really, really curious to find out what Sun-jae thinks of Professor Kang as a person. I kind of wonder if his bullshit meter is going off, a suspicion that this guy isn’t the most trustworthy.)

My prediction then, is that Sun-jae will fall in love first. He’s a lot more primed for it…

reaction to reaction

The realization that his playing moved her.

Hye-won is going to need something to shake her up a bit before she falls. Which, I’m dying to see how that happens. What will tip her over the edge?


She’s moved… but it’s her job. She’s trained to compartmentalize.

So that’s the characters — let’s talk technical. I must, must, must point out how gorgeously this is being filmed. Expected, of course, but always nice to have confirmation. I loved our first glimpses of Sun-jae and Hye-won. At first the huge contrast of his blue collar job versus her white color job, stood out to me. The cacophony and chaos of his work environment versus her quiet and harmonious setting at the spa. But then there was the similarity of their both fulfilling orders, efficiently getting their work done.

And I adored the visuals of them both typing messages to each other — both of their hands moving with such grace and speed over the keyboards. duet They were beginning their duet with neither of them realizing it. But then the contrast came back up when he used slang she was unfamiliar with, underlining the generation gap.

Oh, and the sound track! I am loving, loving, loving the musical choices and the way it’s being used. (Hye-won hunting down Young-woo; Sun-jae trying to elude security.) And I’m also loving that silence is being used as well. Once again the PD is trusting his actors.

Oh, I hope, hope, hope this show continues to shine as brightly as its first two episodes. I have no idea how the drama will end. Will it be a tragedy? A happy ending? Something in between? No. Clue. But I want — I expect — the story to be a good one. Even if it wrecks me.
4 hands

29 thoughts on “Secret Love Affair : Episodes 1-2 (ooh, this is good!)

  1. Heh 1400 words and counting!! I’ll come bck and comment in length later but my first thought is…you didn’t mention THE SEX?! ;P. Coz he just lost his virginity to her, right? RIGHT? Ok, I’ve drank the kool aid, I know, sorry ;D

    • Hah! Okay — I’ll admit that I didn’t fully register Sun-jae’s flicker of shock when he saw Hye-won’s face after their duet. Which means I honestly thought of their playing as foreplay neither of them fully recognized… until Sun-jae’s replaying of that moment. In his bedroom. With their naked arms and fingers all golden and intertwined as the played the piece and… Yeah, that was my moment of ‘ohhhh… so that’s how he saw it.” After that, when I went back through the episode for screepcaps, that flicker of shock meant a whole lot more to me.

      I think Hye-won is only seeing Sun-jae as a deeply gifted player, though. I wouldn’t call it denial, really — I don’t think she’s lying to herself, she totally recognizes that she’s been moved. But she’s got him stuck into a safe little compartment with “promising student” neatly printed on the label above it. His playing moves her, but she’s not looking at the player as of yet. (On the flip side, that moment of shock when Sun-jae realized what he’d done to Hye-won — he’s definitely looking at her, not just her musical judgement.)

      Which is a lot of words to say, YES. His cherry was officially popped and he totally knows it but she’d be all, “what, it was a tickle and a squeeze, nothing really happened, I AM A PROFESSIONAL, DAMN IT!” — so her moment of shocked realization is yet to come. *waits eagerly* 😀

      • Hah, well you know my mind is in the gutter so I didn’t need to watch it twice to see that whole scenario for what it is. But I think her body knows what her mind won’t acknowledge, that the two of them had full-blown body-spirit connection that transcends sex, on that piano. But it was overtly sexual to her IMO. Otherwise why deflect and pinch his cheek. That gesture was to regain equilibrium, re-establish boundaries and most importantly to tell herself that this was just a boy, and not a man. Why would she need to do that if she didn’t feel something much more than just being moved? She totally sees him (she looked at him, remember?) in that moment. Nah, she knows. Except she doesn’t know know, y’know? I used to think that i needed this drama to be overtly sexy but with these two eps, I think I’m good. I don’t even need to see them kiss. Ok fine, one kiss will please me.

        Hmm the more I think about it the more I think SJ is going to have his heart torn to shreds. HY is a survivor and a smooth operator. They aren’t gonna run away together to start a music school in flippin’ jeju island or whatnot are they? Nope. Let there be tears!!

        • Oh, of course — that’s exactly what that cheek-pinch was! Thanks for pointing that out, DDee! Because she was totally flustered at the end of their duet and was definitely trying to bring herself back down to earth. Her sense of humor coming out to shield herself again. A sort of, “oh, hah hah, boy did I get swept up in that music, such a talented little whippersnapper, that I have totally legit, career-minded, interest in, and NOTHING ELSE!” mind-snap.

          In some ways, that they’re musicians gives her a cover she wouldn’t otherwise have. Because good music is supposed to move you. So she can shift her emotions from the man making the music to the music he made — or at least, tell herself that it was the music, not the man, that moved her. (I… hope that makes sense?)

          Also… I agree, it’s hard for me to see how this ends happily. I mean, it would be awesome if it did (without compromising the story being told) but it’s hard to see how it’ll happen.

          Regarding the sex — we’ve already had a side-boob flash (two lovers actually naked in bed together in a k-drama!) so I’m guessing some level of torrid will be applied. 😉

      • …Scratch what I said about not needing the sex. I could be happy with completely torrid and have her see SJ as a body first, person second. Or not at all.

  2. I think this one owns me – heart and soul. I almost had to restrain myself from watching the first two epsiodes again and again because I just know there were things I missed, or didn’t pay enough attention to. How is it going to go if I’m already this invested? Oh dear, oh dear. XD

    Was I able to put to writing everything I felt while watching these episodes? Doubt it. I was reading through what you wrote and realised I clean forgot to note down some of the thoughts that had been swirling round in my head for a few days now. Guess I need to ‘hold that thought’ till next post? 🙂

    Isn’t Kim Hee Ae just wonderful? And this is the best Yoo Ah In I’ve seen in years. If Sun Jae is the catalyst, then Hye Won is the focus. Or so it seems to me. Also, how wonderful is it that it’s the women who are at the center of this story. So often the female characters seem to be just props, backdrop for the males.

    • Kim Hee-ae is so, so wonderful! Her Hye-won is such a fabulous character and I love her to bits already. (She had me with her forgotten skirt — that part was so hilariously awesome, and said so much about her with her, “take a picture!” quip. 😉 ) This is the best I’ve seen Yoo Ah-in since “Punch” — and he’s playing older, and it’s a drama, so I’m expecting even more complexity — especially with a talent like Kim Hee-ae to bounce off of.

      I definitely want to watch them again. (And again, and again, and again.) And I really, really hope the rest of the series repays my obsession. Please be as good as you are! 😀

      Centralizing the female characters is what I enjoyed so much with “A Wife’s Credentials” so I was really pleased to see that happening here, too. Because you’re right — so often the guys become the main actors, so this makes for a pleasant change. (Hye-won’s dinner with her friends… I loved it! Because they were obviously close, and obviously enjoying each other’s company, and obviously supportive of each other without secrets. So, so cool! Oh… something Hye-won might start to lose when she starts her scandalous affair? Or maybe a support group? I’ll hope for a support group.)

    • Oh! You might know this, but there was a moment where the actress who plays Sun-jae’s girlfriend (the hair-salon girl) was waiting for the printer to print out Sun-jae’s graduation form and she looked so much like Kwak Jung-wook, I wonder if she were his little sister? Possible or am I crazy? (I could be crazy. I get that way sometimes…)

      • There is a similarity, but maybe it’s more in her befuddled expression than actual features. 🙂 I don’t think they are related going by surnames, though that’s no guarantee with all these stagenames around. She looked very familiar to me so I checked and she was in Equator Man and Shark, playing younger versions of the leading ladies.

        • That befuddled expression! So, so similar. I honestly didn’t see a resemblance until that scene and I just knew I’d seen that expression before. And I also knew I’d seen in on a guy. (Weird how the mind works…) I haven’t seen “Shark” but I did see “Equator Man”. Though it’s been a long while on that one so I didn’t peg her as someone I’d seen before…

    • You’re welcome, Alexe! 😀 “Secret Love Affair” is so, so worthy of being into — I’m sure this will be the first of many posts to come. 🙂

      • I rewatched the 2 episodes with subs , stopping at some fabulous pics . It’s been long since I became obsessed with a drama this way . I am looking forward to reading your recaps !

    • Oh my gosh, you totally win the “cutest icon” award! That curious kitty is adorable!

      And also, agreed! With everything you say. 😀 (I am so, so glad for YAI that he’s able to move on from “Fashion King” — talk about wasting talent…)

  3. I like how you pointed out that this role would bring out Yoo Ah In’s acting abilities! He (the actor) said it himself at the press conference, that he was really looking forward to play this role (or something along this line).
    I was worried at first that the story would follow the classic kdrama story patterns with the poor, the rich, the love line etc., but I was pleasantly surprised by the first two episodes. Actually I was absolutely captivated and had to go and watch it again and again and AGAIN!
    Love your review by the was, you pointed out everything that I loved ^^

    • Thank you! 🙂 And I’m also loving how SLA is ignoring the classic patterns and striking out on its own. I loved that Hye-won wasn’t an actual member of the elite. It’s kind of funny that it was such a big character note for me, but that rich/poor pattern is so deeply entrenched.

      I can imagine that YAI would be looking forward to this sort of role. It’s not the kind that comes along often in drama-land, so I’m thrilled for him that he’s got this part. And he’s totally killing it.

      And! You’ve watched the episodes three times already?! I’m jealous! 😉 I’m going to try and rewatch at least once before the next episodes come along. There’s so much nuance to pour over, which is awesome. 😀

  4. Excellent review. You made a lot of really insightful and eye-opening observations that I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t mentioned them, so thank you! I look forward to reading more of your SLA recaps 😀

  5. Thank you so much for these wonderful recaps! I trully enjoy it. I can’t wait to watch the next two episodes and read your reviews again. Btw, I just read the characters’ description in Soompi. Apparently it was an arranged marriage between Hye Won & Professor Kang. I was thinking that they married out of love, and rather for the benefits they could have as a “team” in their field.

    • You’re welcome, and thank you! 😀

      Yeah, I can totally buy that theirs was an arranged marriage. (I can’t imagine Hye-won actually being attracted to Professor Kang — my imagination just isn’t strong enough to wrangle that image up. 😛 ) I’m guessing Professor Kang helped Hye-won get her foot in the door, maybe? I don’t know — she’s so talented and capable it’s hard for me to wrap my head around needing anyone’s help, let along Professor Kang’s. But… you got to start somewhere, I suppose.

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