Things are still not looking good for Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon and the prospect of them getting back together is a distant reality. Even though they finally have their first heart to heart conversation, it reveals that the issues between them are much deeper than just the affair and also how far apart they have grown. This show certainly isn’t one to settle for easy answers or reconciliations and with each episode, it just keeps digging deeper into issues of marriage, loyalty and women’s identity.
While Hyun Woo did display some growth in the previous episode by deciding to have a proper conversation with Soo Yeon, his perspective on what went wrong between them still hasn’t matured much. As shown in this episode, he is fixated on the affair and still fails to look beyond that into their marital issues. When Soo Yeon poses him a question of whether he has had an affair before, he is momentarily stumped and he asks all those around him if they think he’s had an affair before, admitting to Yoon-ki that he jumped a little at the question. While Yoon-ki is clear that he is cheating on Ara, Hyun Woo’s behaviour may be even worse than him because he is not even aware of his interactions with the opposite sex. He confesses to Yoon-ki and Joon Young that there have been three women that he took out for meals and drinks. He calls one of them cute, compares his relationship with the other one with Joon Young and Bo Young and he even went to a Busan film festival with the last one. All the while, he dismisses his interactions with these three women as “affairs”, but imagine how Soo Yeon would have responded if she had seen him?
While both Joon Young and Bo Young dismiss Hyun Woo’s examples as having an affair, it’s Bo Young who provokes Hyun Woo into deep thought when she says:
But whether it’s a man or woman, an affair is about giving the body and the mind. It’s not sleeping or physical contact, but it’s the step before getting there, isn’t it? Women consider it an affair from the mid-stage. – Bo Young
This leads Hyun Woo to realise that his previous behaviour may have constituted an affair, which I personally think it did. He’s no less guilty of having his heart roam from the marriage when compared to Soo Yeon. While Joon-ki’s interactions with the other women are purely physical, Hyun Woo’s interactions with the other women were emotional and intellectual – both of which constitute an affair. However, even when he finally apologises to Hyun Woo, there’s an element of denial as he says to her, “if that’s what you consider an affair, yes it means I had an affair”, instead of outright apologising for the affair.
He then goes on to ask her if she had an affair to take revenge for his affair, but he’s so far off from the truth. He even says that she’s been doing well as the perfect wife and mum and everyone’s been jealous of him. However, he fails to realise it’s precisely that pressure of maintaining her reputation as perfect wife, mum and career woman that caused her to become stretched so thin. The affair started when Sun-Woo gave her something that Hyun Woo never did – the gift of freedom. He gives her two hours that are wholly hers, so that she can finish a book in her handbag that she’s never been able to start. He also gives her the attention that she’s never had from Hyun Woo by observing something about her she’s never noticed.
Moving away from the show itself, I’d like to add that Soo Yeon’s situation is completely convincing and very real. Parenthood is an all-absorbing endeavour that requires so much of you – you completely lose any time for yourself and just doing something as simple as reading 30 pages of a book becomes a rare luxury. This is something I’ve experienced and also witnessed my wife going through. As husband and wife, we need to intentionally help to protect that sense of “thaselfhood” of each other by giving each other time to continue to pursue our own interests. Having walked the path myself, I completely understood what Soo Yeon was sharing.
While Soo Yeon’s story does not absolve her of any guilt, it’s clear by the end of her sharing that she is immensely sorry for what she has done. She keeps apologising, telling Hyun Woo that she should have gone to him first. Hyun Woo’s response to her story once again misses the mark completely, as he tells her this is what everyone goes through. However, this is evidently not the case for him as he has had the freedom to choose when he can pick up his kid and even gone on dinners and drinks with the women mentioned earlier. Sun-woo was very likely the only friend that Soo Yeon had, ever since they had kids. At the end of it, Soo Yeon says that she can no longer face Hyun Woo and she’s not sure it’s guilt. Yes, she’s right, it’s more complex than that. It’s emotional estrangement and distance – she should have told him how she felt, but from what we have witnessed, he shows no interest in genuinely understanding her situation, always imposing his understanding on her. It could also be physical withdrawal, as we’ve not witnessed a single hint of physical intimacy between the two of them. There’s also a sense of entrapment, because facing Hyun Woo again reminds her of all the roles she has to play to keep up that perfect image. There could also be betrayal, because Hyun Woo has not kept his promise made during the only sweet scene between them of the series so far, where he promised her that they will still make them to watch the stars even when the kid comes. It’s so multi-layered and complex and I applaud the show for laying bare all these issues that surface when couples grow apart.
The challenge I foresee for the show is how to tie all these emotional issues together in a satisfactory manner. And this is where I once again express my desire for the show to bring both of them together because divorce would really be the easy way out for the show as well. Getting both of them to divorce would mean the show does not have to resolve all the issues it has surfaced between Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon. It would be far more satisfactory and arguably even groundbreaking if the show chose to take the more meaningful route and show us how a couple can work through such issues. It would also be disappointing if they just came back together for the sake of Joo Soon and swept all their issues under the carpet, because we all know that that’s also a recipe for disaster. The show has done well so far in revealing all the issues leading to their distancing; it now has the challenging task of exploring the reconciliation process meaningfully.
Besides the main storyline, there’s also lots of entertaining and genuinely hilarious stuff going on between Joon Young and Bo Young and I really love the playful energy between the two. Bo Young is certainly growing to become my favourite character as she carries herself with such confidence and insight. I also enjoyed the witch-hunt to find out who exactly Tuna Mayo is, whom I’m still suspecting could be Bo Young, but the show may pull a surprise on us and it could also be one of Hyun Woo’s workers – I’m thinking it could be the girl whose words always get sped up into an incoherent screeching noise. Heh.
Yoon Ki’s storyline takes a slight shift in this episode as we start to see him suffering because of all his seemingly intelligent plans, becoming both physically and even emotionally battered by the end of the episode. At this point, we know Ara already knows of his cheating ways, hence her loading of hiking gear on him is definitely a deliberate move to get back at him. I’m still rather confused by how we are supposed to respond to their storyline, because it’s neither funny nor fully serious either. It would be nice if we had more clarity on where that story was heading.
On a final note, I would be completely shortchanging the episode if I didn’t highlight the strong production values and direction throughout. Two scenes particularly stood out for me. I loved the scene where Soo Yeon was leaving her father’s place and the camera managed to capture her expression while on the taxi with her dad’s face by the side while she was leaving. It was a very neat juxtaposition of expressions, showing how her heart broke as she thought about how her dad would respond to the divorce. On the other end of the spectrum, I really loved the typhoon hera sequence, which started from the camera zooming out from Yoon-ki’s hotel room to outer space and then to the movements in the clouds. It was so over the top and ridiculous, but really, so hilarious and ingenious.
Once again, another great outing by the series! I will truly miss this series once it’s over.