Well! That didn’t go the direction I was expecting at all. And I love it! I especially love that, essentially, these last two episodes were all about Hye-won making a decision. Of course, first she had to see that there was a decision to be made…
[Spoilers for eps 3 and 4 to follow…]
I loved that Sun-jae saw the piano duet as sex. It wasn’t just crazy talk from deluded viewers! And I loved his online confession. It was so easy and honest and young. And I adored how much it shook Hye-won — her surprise at realizing Sun-jae was her online friend, her shock at his view of her, and her starting to look at herself differently because of it.
And, yes — there are definitely ethical issues in her choosing to continue to pretend she was someone else while he bared his soul. But it didn’t bother me as a viewer. The show doesn’t try and paint it as good behavior. Hye-won’s doing a bad thing and they’re clear on that. (For that matter, she’s clear on that — knowing she should confess but not doing it.) And good Lord, do I get why she let him keep talking. To see herself through an admirer’s eyes… that is such a massive temptation. So it’s bad behavior but, for this character at that point in time, it’s understandable behavior.
Fun little aside: I noticed that we got a lot of shots of Hye-won’s feet after Sun-jae made his confession. Often when Sun-jae wasn’t anywhere around. (One glorious exception: the “should I remove her shoes?” scene. Which managed to be hilarious and adorable and overflowing with second hand embarrassment all at the same time.) So I see those shots as illustrating Hye-won’s sense of herself. She’s more aware of her attractiveness now. Sun-jae’s crush woke something up in her.
So anyway, Sun-jae completely blows Hye-won’s mind and she spends the next two episodes trying to decide what she wants to do about it. And struggling through some rather large denial barriers. That she’s attracted to him… I think she only begins to admit it to herself after he shows up at her house and she lets him kiss her.
About the kiss: I haven’t had a chance to check out anyone else’s thoughts and I’m easily swayed so my views may change, but I was a bit disappointed. Their first kiss and we only see the back of her head? That’s cruel directing right there. I like to think it’s because it wasn’t a great kiss — Sun-jae’s first time, Hye-won’s pretty drunk — and better ones are to come. The important point was that it happened, Hye-won let it happen (though Sun-jae definitely initiated it, the pause before he acted was long enough for Hye-won to reject it, in my opinion of the moment), and there’s no more room for denial.
The coolest part of the kiss was the aftermath, because once Hye-won faces her desire — girl starts to move fast! (And of course the housekeeper chooses that night of all nights to not sleep soundly. And of course it’s Professor Kang’s fault and he comes home early. Frustration!)
And then we get more bad, but understandable, behavior from Hye-won. That whole pretending not to remember the kiss or that she’d stashed Sun-jae in the music room… really, really unkind. And since it leads to Sun-jae’s breakdown (both sad and hilarious), we’re meant to feel the unkindness of it. But I get that she was panicked and still drunk and basically flailing. Bad, but understandable.
Now that she’s had time to think things through, though, I suspect Hye-won is going to cheat like a boss. (Doesn’t it seem like she’s going to figure out a way to actually keep Sun-jae in her house? That’s both ballsy and efficient.) But I do fear it won’t be easy on Sun-jae. Will he understand why she has to be so careful? Will she let him see the reasons for her carefulness? Sun-jae is innocent but he’s not an idiot. So I’m hoping he’ll cotton on, for his sake if nothing else. If he doesn’t understand what Hye-won is doing he’s going to get so, so hurt.
Onto dysfunctional family fun! I really do feel sorry for Young-woo. She really is the little-girl-lost. And it’s totally typical of self-made über-successes like her dad (whom I suspect came from humble roots based on his restaurant choice and the way he picked his teeth) to be far too hard on their children and then wonder why they’re a mess. Young-woo is in her forties and she’s treated like a sixteen year old. Her husband took away her passport?! Seriously?! I would think that was illegal. Young-woo is not, actually, a child. Though apparently everyone treats her like one.
Of course, just when I was about to swing fully behind her, Young-woo chooses to go play with her boy-toy in Paris rather than visit her children (who apparently live abroad somewhere?). So she’s a mess but she’s pretty much wallowing in it, and I pity her but I don’t think she should be in charge of the school. (Hye-won had good advice. Let her be in charge of something small. Though Chairman Seo totally missed her point when he said Hye-won would have to run it otherwise it’d fail. I think Young-woo needs to be allowed to fail. Part of becoming an adult is learning how to fail and try again.)
And now let’s leap into prostitution: Because that’s what’s going on, right? Jang-ho was “auditioning” to be a prostitute for Hye-won (a newbie for the newbie?). Young-woo’s “boyfriend” is totally in it for the money and may well have begun where Jang-ho did. (So he’s an exclusive call-boy at the moment, but selling sex is basically his job.) And then Hye-won played pimp for Chairman Seo with that woman at the restaurant and dear Lord how do you train for that kind of conversation? And also, how the hell did the woman realize what Hye-won was getting at when she asked about the woman’s days off? Because as far as I’m concerned, that’s a huge leap. I would have needed things clearly spelled out and I’d probably still not get what I was being asked. (I’m getting the strong impression that prostitution is far, far, far more normalized in Korea than it is in the States.)
Within that moral atmosphere of arranged marriages and normalized prostitution, I have to say I find it hard to judge Hye-won and Sun-jae. What Hye-won is doing is dangerous — she knows it could destroy her. But only because she’s a woman. If she were a man, and married to Young-woo (Hye-won’s face when the Chairman mentioned the idea — hilarious!), starting something with a music student would be situation normal. (Though Sun-jae would have to be female for this scenario.) Affairs aren’t immoral in and of themselves in her world — they’re immoral for women specifically. That was made clear with Madame Han’s conversation with Young-woo.
In that sort of world I almost feel like I should applaud Hye-won and Sun-jae. They’re actually being honest with themselves. Neither of them are in it for greed or networking or — I’m pretty sure — even lust. Sun-jae is too pure for this to be lust. Hye-won is too smart. Per their world’s rules they’re engaging in bad behavior, per mine…? I can’t condemn them. I worry it will end badly, but I cannot say they’re making a horrible mistake.
(Interesting aside: I googled Sviatoslav Richter, the pianist whose biography Hye-won gave to Sun-jae. Incredibly fitting gift. He was mainly self-taught and while his teacher discovered him he felt he didn’t really teach him anything.)