Well! The board has changed completely! Some motivations have become gloriously clear, while others have sunk deeper into murky. And that’s just the view from Hye-won’s head! We’re heading into the second half of the drama with the plot nicely thickened and I have no idea where we’re going to go from here. Pretty sure I’m going to love it, though. Even if it hurts. Spoilers for eps 9 & 10 below…
First the clarity: I loved, loved, loved Hye-won’s letter to Sun-jae. It was so beautifully shot, with Hye-won making her way up to Sun-jae’s place — all eagerness and trepidation — as she narrates the letter…
I loved that she was so straightforwardly honest in telling him how deeply she loves him, but also unflinching in laying out that this is something that must, must, must be kept a secret.
And I love that Sun-jae gets it. He’s got a purity (or maybe “clarity” would be the better word?) to him but he’s not an idiot. So he recognizes the danger Hye-won especially is in and, refreshingly, he doesn’t resent her for it. I think it’s his own clarity — his strong sense of self, his strong sense of what is important to him — that enabled Hye-won to be so open with him. And that openness means Sun-jae is a full partner in their relationship. (Such a contrast to the games and resentments and polite little lies Hye-won and Professor Kang use to manage their relationship.) They may be lying to the world (badly, bless them) but they don’t lie to each other.
This is why I was so happy with their fighting in the previous episodes. Hye-won’s words weren’t always honest, but her emotions definitely were. Probably a first for her. Sun-jae provided a place where she could safely crack open her shell. And of course the first thing to spew out was incoherent, fear-fueled, panic and anger. (What formed her shell in the first place.) But once that was gone, she was able to show him her true self. And so we get that wonderfully honest letter.
In a very cool — and I’m going to say deliberate — way, Da-mi mirrors Hye-won. That she was second in command to a money-driven gangster… that’s the back alley version of Hye-won’s job. And it was seeing herself through Sun-jae’s eyes that pulled Da-mi out of that world. (That she was the second — that little detail is what has me convinced the storytellers mean for us to see the parallel.)
One big difference: Da-mi is a very linear and straightforward thinker (no subterfuge, ever) while Hye-won is circular and complex with layers upon layers into infinity. (Except when it comes to committing adultery. At which point Hye-won thinks to get two phones, and then constantly loses track of her legit one. A hilariously nerve-wracking habit.)
Also, while I adore Hye-won, I kind of don’t like Da-mi. I feel bad about it, though. She’s actually a good person and she’s doing right by her friends as best she can. I mean, it’s not fair to expect her to recognize that Hye-won and Sun-jae are OTP4EVAH! and should have 10,000 babies and ride off into every sunset ever while unicorns prance and puppies and kittens frolic and rainbows cover the earth.
As far as Da-mi knows, Hye-won has lied to her and might be manipulating Sun-jae into a sordid affair for her own twisted reasons. But I fear she’s going to straightforwardly expose them (like she did with Jang-ho), so I just can’t warm up to her.
Someone I do like, that I worry I shouldn’t, is Madam Han. Well — Madam Han and Chancellor Min. Those two make for an interesting pair. Both are as corrupt as the day is long, but they’re not asses about it. (Unlike Professor Kang or Young-woo… or her smirky boy-toy, for that matter.) And… okay, I’m totally shallow. I’m pretty sure their working together to make Hye-won Sun-jae’s primary teacher has everything to do with my liking them. (Kneeing the Chairman in the groin back in ep. 8 probably helped, too. Not going to lie.)
I’m sure Madam Han and Chancellor Min are up to their own game and I’m confident they’ll sacrifice whomever to win whatever it is they’re after. (Control of the Art Foundation?) But I also get this sense that they’re on Hye-won’s side. Or, not on her side, but they recognize and value Hye-won’s abilities at least. Far, far more than Young-woo or Professor Kang. And possibly even more than the Chairman. (Who recognizes Hye-won’s talent but, in using it to prop up his daughter, devalues it.)
So I’m not as worried about them figuring out Hye-won and Sun-jae’s relationship. Which also means, I’m not angry at Hye-won’s friend admitting her suspicions to Madam Han when asked. (I doubt Hye-won would feel betrayed; I suspect this kind of thing is par the course. It’d be nice if the friend gave Hye-won a heads-up, though.)
It is too bad that they’ve shaken up Professor Kang. I think he was willing to turn a blind-eye to Hye-won and Sun-jae’s closeness (I’m not sure he thought it was a full on affair — but he could tell Sun-jae preferred Hye-won as a teacher) as long as he got the public praise. But with Chancellor Min and Madam Han taking him off primary teacher duty, his motivation for turning a blind eye is disappearing.
Sun-jae’s a tiny bit too obvious he looks to Hye-won for instruction, and people are talking about her being his “real” teacher. Professor Kang wants to keep the glory of being Sun-jae’s teacher to himself. And I worry he’s thinking that discovering the affair will help him do it… somehow.
He must have had some strong suspicions as to what they were up to when he went looking for them after the concert. Maybe he thinks he can separate Hye-won from Sun-jae if they’re discovered? Or cow Sun-jae into following him? Anyway, he came terrifyingly close to discovering them — because sneaking is his actual gift — and that can only be a bad thing. Because Professor Kang is a mess and doesn’t really know how to play the game. (He has his position because of Hye-won. I’m pretty sure he’d be flailing without her.) I don’t trust him with secrets.
And then came the Prosecutors and this is where things get murky. Hye-won knew they were coming. She didn’t warn Young-woo, for obvious reasons. But I’m not sure she warned Madame Han, either. Which is a much less obvious choice. (Or was it even a choice? Was she distracted?) And then she took that long, lingering look around her office before heading out. Does Hye-won have a move planned for just these circumstances? How dirty is it? Would Sun-jae approve? Does this new Hye-won — deeply in love with Sun-jae — approve? Am I reading waaay too much into a lingering look?
I have no idea. My drama-predicition-meter broke after the second episode with this show. I just know things have shifted and the path forward is hard to see and I’d really like episode 11 now, please and thank you. The countdown to Monday has begun. Again.