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. She’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.
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.)
And 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?)
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.
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.
Whereas, 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.
So, 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.
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…
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?
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. 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.