It seems like my wish expressed in the previous episode for both Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s relationship isn’t going to come true as the episode ends with Soo Yeon deciding to divorce Hyun Woo.
How can we blame her though?
We see much more of Soo Yeon’s side of the story in this episode and it’s clear that the show wants us to move from empathising with her to sympathising with her. The episode portrays both the struggles she faces as a working mum and as a woman who has cheated on her husband.
At work, her boss is harsh with her and speaks to her in a condescending tone. Her deadlines are tight and unforgiving. While struggling with work deadlines, she also has to manage the barrage of messages that come in from the group of stay-at-home mums in school, whom she’s also subservient to because they help her to secure what’s best for Joo Soon and help him make friends. She gives them expensive treats, buys macarons for them and swallows her pride to ask Hyun Woo for a professional video producer for them. She’s stretched so thin on all fronts, and we learn from Hyun Woo’s mum that this has been going on for a long time, as she recollects how Soo Yeon’s ran all the way, sweating even in the winter, when Joo Soon was sick as an infant. She’s been physically and emotionally stretched for so long and her fatigue and exhaustion is just written on her demeanour this entire episode.
You just want to appear as super mom, successful at work too. You think you’re better than stay at home moms. – Hyun Woo to Soo Yeon
Hyun Woo’s question to her about what she has really done for their son and all his brutal accusations of her really revealed his lack of understanding of her predicament. Having struggled with the burden of societal expectations, the last straw for her really is to have a husband that completely puts down all her efforts and cast them in negative light. It is his response to her contributions, and not his response to her adultery, that pushes her to decide to divorce him.
Regarding her cheating, she’s certainly gets no slack on too. Hyun Woo is stubborn in seeing things from his perspective, still adamantly pushing all blame on her. He indulges in self-pity, and all his postings on the forum cast him as the victim, starting with “My wife wants to separate with me.” or the closing line, “My wife is divorcing me this week.” While I felt it was difficult to judge him last week, I really disapproved of his actions and his words to her this week, going all out to make her suffer by refusing to pick up their son, telling her she should have anticipated this. He keeps cutting her off in conversations, refusing to even hear her side of the story while continually imposing his own feelings and experiences on her. Sun-woo’s wife is certainly vicious with her, completely tearing her apart, demanding from her to be specific about what she’s apologetic for. She’s completely different with Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon, but in both instances she wants to present to them that her marriage with Sun-woo is strong and will weather through this. She hits at Soo Yeon’s weakness – the struggle of balancing both work and children – and asks Soo Yeon if she was hoping to be saved by her husband. It’s really painful to watch, because Soo Yeon is silent through it all, looking down all the time. She’s constantly looking down in this episode when speaking to people, afraid to lift her head up after all that she’s done.
There’s no way we can watch this episode without sympathising with Soo Yeon. I personally understand the plight of a working mum, having witnessed how my wife had to struggle as well with balancing the needs of our kids with her work. The emotional pressure is so immense and she already had a very supportive work environment. It was heartening though to see Hyun Woo’s mum affirm Soo Yeon for her efforts and to even tell her that her mum would have been proud to see that. She also commiserates with Soo Yeon, telling her that she hated her marriage too and she would have ended it if not for her children.
I was sick of marriage too. It stunk. – Hyun Woo’s mum
As Soo Yeon tells Hyun Woo’s mum, both of them haven’t really spoken about their marriage and what happened. While the episode has built a lot of the context of Soo Yeon’s life and the consequences of her cheating, we still haven’t heard from Soo Yeon about what led her the affair. Her side of the story still remains untold and while divorce is already on the cards, I really hope we get some serious, heartfelt conversations between Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon about how their marriage was like.
Rather than getting up the courage to break up with him, I want to gather the courage to understand and forgive him. – Sun Woo’s wife
As the episode progresses, we see Hyun Woo’s heart softening, especially when he sees Soo Yeon trying to piggyback Joo Soon and clearly struggling as she bends down to pick up his shoes. After talking to Bo-Young, he puts on his wedding band and decides to have a conversation with her, to find out why she did that. It’s a sign of growth for him, of finally being deciding to hear out his wife and I sincerely hope we get some of that in the next episode.
On the note of cheating though, the show is aware of the double standard applied to women who cheat, which is voiced by Bo Young in this episode and mentioned several times previously. I am concerned though that the show seems to be perpetuating this double standard through its juxtaposition of Soo Yeon’s cheating with Joon Ki’s cheating, which continues to grate on me. I had earlier seen Joon Ki as being used brilliantly by the show to say all the politically incorrect things without being offensive. However, in recent episodes, his philandering sequences continue to be playfully presented and milked for humour without any sense of comeuppance or condemnation. While it was alright for one or two episodes, it’s getting boring and offensive. Yes, Ara finally discovers that he’s lied to her in this episode, but it wasn’t as if she didn’t already suspect this previously. In trying to give the writers some credit, I wondered if Joon Ki is being presented almost as a sex addict. It seems as if he completely has no control over his impulses and actions, as suggested in the previous episode by the ghost nightmare. He clearly has no interest in ending his marriage; all these merely serve as playful encounters for him. I really hope the writer is going somewhere meaningful with this and not merely using this for humour.
While Joon-ki’s story seems to be heading nowhere, Joon-Young story is relatively well-handled and we finally see the truth behind his marriage and the sham that he has had to keep up for over three years. It’s been a terrible experience for him, which is related to us with a good balance of humour and pain, ending in both men hugging each other in tears.
As a piece of storytelling, this episode was impressive as it managed to move all the relationships ahead as well as the plot involving Hyun Woo’s TV show, while also providing contexts to all the different remarks that appear on the internet forum. I continue to be entertained by the show’s use of social media to convey layers of conversations within the same time frame (which is extremely realistic) and also as a way to convey a person’s identity. I can confidently say that this is certainly one of the most culturally relevant series of 2016.