A Note: My notes on the show were getting too long to include in an episode guide, so I made that a separate post here. This isn’t really for reading in one sitting; perhaps the best way to read it would be as an extension of the episode guide, by reading the thoughts for an episode after having watched it. Also, sorry this doesn’t have many screencaps!
The Shining by Badly Drawn Boy
Chan Joo: Even now, it’s not too late.
Jin Sae: What are you talking about, honey?
Chan Joo: You’ve been more than good to me up till now. If you stop now, I won’t hold anything against you. …Are you sure you won’t regret this?
I started watching Beloved last year because I was on a post-White Christmas Hong Jong Hyun kick, and when I saw that he was playing a gentle, kind, deferential husband who is all about his wife, I knew I was in for the long haul. In the first episode I was struck by a bride who was wary of getting married on her wedding day; she wasn’t the one who was eager to be married, it was him. And to convince her she demands that they sleep together before the ceremony. My kinda girl.
What I like about this show is that it’s a melodrama that is low-key: there’s a scheming chaebol wife and secret Daddy Long Legs and plenty of intrigue and screaming and wailing, but none of it is particularly makjang, none of it drawn in lurid colors. It’s like a slow burn. One example is in the relationship between Ran and Jin Sae: in this episode we see him try to help her, see him act as an old friend who’s simply being kind and conscientious–nothing out of the ordinary for Jin Sae. But we also see that he’s charmed by her, that he falls into an easy camaraderie with her even though they haven’t seen each other for years, that he gives her his time and consideration, that when they dance together he gets flustered, that Ran, although she’s younger than him, is more quick-witted while he seems rather innocent–and we see that he goes from not telling Chan Joo what he’s doing (a simple omission) to straight up lying to her. All this casts his harmless actions in a different light. There’s no doubt that there is an attraction between them, but it isn’t thrown in our faces.
All the characters have a pulse, even as they fall into familiar, even typical categories: Chan Joo could very easily be seen as the stereotypical melodrama heroine we all know and dread–she’s bullied, always crying; she mopes in the rain, falls over her own limbs and faints, stops in the middle of a crosswalk, beats her fists against a man’s chest only to have him subdue her with a hug or a kiss–and she is. In the hands of a writer like Kim Eun Sook she would become a farce, a caricature of a woman, and a disappointment to watch. But here she has a sexual agency that characters like her usually don’t have, in addition to her vulnerability; she has a maturity to her, especially in comparison to Ran, that seems to come in part from the pain she’s experienced; a fear of the possibility of another romantic failure; and a self disgust that’s strangely refreshing. She owns her vulnerability, and it isn’t grotesquely exploited. And the final thing I think that separates her from the usual damsel in distress is her pride, whcih sometimes borders on arrogance. I just…really like her. It’s nice to have a weak heroine I can root for without feeling like I’m being totally clueless.
One thing for sure is that we are having different dreams on the same bed.
Chan Joo’s a weak woman, constantly buffeted about by others, but somehow that doesn’t make her story any less engaging for me. What moves me about her is that she’s a woman who’s lived, a woman with experience. She’s loved before, and she’d been betrayed by it, and with Jin Sae she has another chance. He isn’t who she’d imagined her life with, but here she is, building a life with him, working at happiness. Their daily life together is simple–breakfast, sleeping in separate beds (because of her tendency to kick him off), riding their bikes to work, calling each other honey, celebrating their anniversary at home in their PJs and drinking a tub of beer; it isn’t the stuff of sweeping romance, doesn’t have the intensity that her struggles with Eun Hyuk have, but their life is imbued with a mutual understanding, a want on both their parts for the other to be happy, and to be happy themselves for the other. They are very playful lovers. They like each other, are the kind of couple you can imagine being friends outside of their romance. It’s something definitive about their relationship, because later on we hear Jin Sae tell Ran that people always tell them how liberal and close a couple they are, like best friends, like family. This aspect of their romance will figure later in their marital problems.
As is to be expected, I can’t stand Eun Hyuk, at least not when he’s opposite Chan Joo. With her he’s presumptuous, cruel, selfish, and boring. Whenever I see him I think of what Marnie Madden said to her husband in The Hour: “Two sane, beautiful women wasted on you. Aren’t you ashamed?” But I love Ran. While Eun Hyuk crashes back into Chan Joo’s life, acting like after leaving her she should have just waited for him like some lifeless thing, forcing her into cars and forcing kisses on her, Ran charms Jin Sae. She and Eun Hyuk both have the same aims, but Ran doesn’t impose herself on Jin Sae; he always goes to her. And, of course, Ran has never deliberately hurt Jin Sae. There is more of a contrast between Ran and Chan Joo than there is between Eun Hyuk and Jin Sae–they’re foils for each other. Ran is a very lonely young woman who’s just moved to Seoul, and Chan Joo has been at her job for years, works with her best friend, and has a gaggle of colleagues who look up to her. Chan Joo has a tendency to keep things to herself, while Ran is comfortable with a more baring honesty. While Chan Joo is older and unsure of herself, Ran is young, willful, inexperienced, full of confidence, and determined to get what she wants. Jin Sae may be kidding himself with what’s going on between them, but she knows exactly what she’s doing.
I like how slow the betrayals between Chan Joo and Jin Sae are: they neither have done anything awful yet, but they’re lying to each other. You can see how with just a little bit of rationalization each of them can come up with reasons why the other doesn’t need to know about Eun Hyuk or Ran: for Chan Joo Eun Hyuk is a terrible past she doesn’t want to bring up, something that if she puts an end to quickly Jin Sae need never know, and for Jin Sae Ran is just an old acquaintence he’s looking after. Neither of them believe they’ve done anything to breach the commitment they’ve made to one another. But as Chan Joo tries to disentangle herself from her past and as Jin Sae deceives himself about the nature of his feelings for Ran, they both are becoming embroiled in dramas that are pulling them away from each other.
You are confident, aren’t you, Madam?
I. cannot. believe. Jin Sae gets Chan Joo a birthday present that Ran picks out. It’s so unthinkingly callous, which is characteristic of him during his flirtation with Ran. He’s hurting Chan Joo in all these ways and he doesn’t even recognize it. He seems strangely catatonic, barely aware of the meaning of his actions and only subconsciously aware of their possible consequences. He seems to think it’s normal to have forgotten his wife’s birthday, normal to be calling another woman on his wife’s birthday, normal to be running to another woman’s parents’ memorial service in the middle of his wife’s birthday party. He insists on ascribing all his actions to his sense of duty, and meanwhile he spends hours outside Ran’s apartment, moping because she won’t speak to him, and then wiping away her tears. Smh. Unlike Chan Joo, Jin Sae is not very self aware.
In this episode Chan Joo finds herself with a heightened consciousness, a sharp contrast to Jin Sae. What a surreal experience it must be for her, to watch her ever-loyal Jin Sae walking in the rain with some other woman, while she’s in a car with an ex who just won’t take no for an answer. Suddenly she’s aware that all is not as it seems with her perfect younger husband. She sees him with another woman, and she realizes that she’s isn’t the only one who can “be shaken,” who could endanger this relationship–she’s confronted with her own hypocrisy, (hypocrisy in that she’s keeping secrets from Jin Sae, not in that she’s being swayed by Eun Hyuk–she rejects him again and again and he just refuses to leave her alone, even resorting to overpowering her physically). Everything in their routine becomes pregnant with possible meaning: he jokes that she should give him more attention and she asks, “Why? Did some young girl say she likes you?” and when she grabs him in a head-hold it isn’t in the playful way she usually does–she’s punishing him for something.
Chan Joo doesn’t confront him straight away. She waits, she observes him. And then she tells him amiably, with no trace of accusation in her tone or manner, just a gentle curiosity, that she saw him with a woman the night it rained. He lies, tells her it was someone from work, and asks her in return why she didn’t call out to him. And it becomes her turn to lie.
What really makes this drama work is that the writer and PD aren’t pushing any obvious moral agenda: it’s as if they’re just documenting events that are unfolding without any editorializing. There’s an evenhandedness in what we’re shown. Chan Joo suffers a miscarriage and loses her lover to a chaebol heiress, there are secrets and taboo illnesses, but there’s also hanging out with friends and visiting parents and cooking dinner together. It shows us the width of the characters’ world, which ranges from cute domestic scenes to corporate machinations, and in doing so it keeps from turning any one character or scene into a symbol–everyone is human and everything is real.
- Jin Sae knows something is bothering Chan Joo when he rushes her to the hospital. It’s a habit of hers to overeat when she’s upset or worried, and he asks her what’s wrong. She tells him it’s nothing, then changes the subject and asks who paid for the check. Only then does she bring up seeing “a man who look[ed] like [him]” with a woman in the rain. That’s really what’s bothering her, but she doesn’t let him know.
- We get 2 indications of Jin Sae wanting kids in this episode: first when he asks Chan Joo and second when they’re walking home from her party and he stares as the baby carriage goes by.
Jin Sae: But Ran-ah, you are not one of those in need of me. That is never you.
Ran: Then what am I to you? If you are not sorry for me, then what is it? You found a place for me to live. You ran to me when I needed you. If it’s not because you felt sorry, what else was it?
Jin Sae: Ran-ah, that is…It’s hard to explain in words. I’m pathetic and stupid. I know it makes no sense at all. But this is just how I am.
Ran: Is it? Do you want me to tell you what it is? If you cross this line, it becomes hell. Can you cross it? It’s true that I like you, Ajusshi. Can you come and cross the line?
Jin Sae: No. I can’t.
Ran: I knew you wouldn’t. Because you’re a coward.
Ok, first: when Ran beats up that asshole who was being so gross with her? It’s things like that that make it so easy for me to love her, even as she’s selfish and so willing to hurt others to get what she wants. Second: the scene where Jin Sae is rushing through the hospital with Chan Joo bouncing around unconscious on his back? Absurd. Unintentional physical comedy aside, the look back at Chan Joo’s past gives us a chance to see what she was like immediately after Eun Hyuk left her, gives us room to consider the work she had to do to lift herself from her depression, to turn from walking beside Jin Sae absent-minded and unsmiling, to living with him in companionship and happiness. It shows us that she has a strength different from Ran’s: she’s a survivor. She’s someone who bears the weight of things instead of just throwing them off. It’s not as apparent a strength as Ran shows when she attacks her harrassers or openly declares what she wants, but it’s there, and it’s central to the understanding of Chan Joo’s character. The look at their past gives new light to the opening scenes of the show and adds shades and contours to their relationship: perhaps this is why their marriage seems so free of conflict when we first meet them, because Chan Joo has already revealed everything she felt shameful about to him, and the conditions of their marriage are clear to them both.
I find the little romcom between Myung Jin and Han Soo well paired with the primary story of the disintegration of Chan Joo and Jin Sae’s marriage; the revenge Myung Jin got on Han So had me giggling just minutes after I was sympathizing with what Chan Joo had been through. I think what makes it work so well is that Han Soo is a bit of a reprobate, but he’s much more knowledgeable and honest than Jin Sae is. He has the same aura about him as Chan Joo of having experienced things in life that Jin Sae hasn’t. He’s ironic and flippant, but he watches out for Jin Sae. And Myung Jin is wonderful: full of love and concern for Chan Joo, annoyed by Han Soo (and annoyed by her attraction to him, heh), and driven in her work–she would make a great romcom heroine.
- Ran tells Jin Sae he’s too much of a coward to commit to anything with her; in the hospital Jin Sae tells Chan Joo that he’s not such a coward as to run away from her.
*I recommend reading Baduy’s explanation of the significance of In Kyung’s diabetes here.
Ajusshi, how about we be more than friends, but less than lovers?
At the end of episode 4, after Chan Joo cuts things off for good with Eun Hyuk (seemingly), she comes home to celebrate with Jin Sae by cooking for him, something she rarely does. Her celebration is cut short by Jin Sae receiving a call from Ran. He leaves. She stays at home and watches a scary movie in the dark that frightens her and takes away her appetite. Then she gets an anonymous call that frightens her more than the movie ever could–her husband is having an affair, the voice tells her. Now in episode 5, after Jin Sae has come to Ran’s aid, after Ran has proposed a kind of deal with him where they’re “more than friends, but less than lovers,” Jin Sae comes back home. But the house is dark, the food Chan Joo was making for him is gone, and Chan Joo is in bed, seemingly asleep. This is what Jin Sae’s relationship with Ran is doing to his marriage: it’s stealing time away from him and Chan Joo. He hasn’t slept with Ran, or even kissed her, but that doesn’t make him innocent. His absence is his betrayal. Ran asks him “Could you come over tonight? It’s because the cabinet doors are broken.” He answers her, “I was going to come over anyway.” I was going to come over anyway. Of course when he gets there she has dinner prepared for him. So when Chan Joo calls him so they can have dinner, he’s already eaten with someone else. He leaves her birthday party to go to Ran, he leaves her dinner to go to Ran. How long before he leaves her to go to Ran? It’s so unsettling to see him being so kind and attentive to Chan Joo, while being the same with Ran, and meaning it for them both.
And the thing is, I don’t dislike Ran. I see the way she looks at him, with so much longing and so much hope, see how she does things to make him happy, see how she teases him, how she cares so much about what he thinks of her. There’s no maliciousness in her, just desire. It breaks my heart that she is feeling these things for a man who is already married, a man who is hesitant, even doubtful, in what he feels for her.
We see a repetition of Chan Joo’s actions from episode 3 here, a mirror. Again she suspects Jin Sae of being unfaithful. Again she at first keeps the information to herself. And again, when she does approach him about it she does so with no recrimination, describing the phone call she gets as a scam, a prank. This time she gives him an excuse before he can make one up, and he just goes along with it. In typical oblivious Jin Sae behavior he doesn’t set out to discover who made the phone call, nor does he limit his interaction with Ran in response to it. It’s like this information has no effect on him. Could he really believe that it is a scam, and not someone who knows about him and Ran? I’ve mentioned how strange I find it that he can be so kind to both women individually, all while being awful to them both. Because it is awful to lie to your spouse, and it is awful to flirt so deeply with someone when you know you’re unavailable. It was a great move to cast Hong Jong Hyun, because I still have the image of him from White Christmas, his face smeared with blood after beating a classmate up. While Jin Sae is the kind and attentive romantic partner I always love watching, Hong Jong Hyun’s playing him gives him this underlying tension that complicates the character, especially when Jin Sae suddenly unleashes some violence that seems to come from nowhere, like when he grabbs Ran’s harrasser by the neck.
Jin Sae’s betrayal of Chan Joo is escalating, but he’s dealt his own blows, and unlike Chan Joo he’s completely unaware of it. When the four have dinner, he is the only one who is unaware of the full scope of the situation they find themselves in–he’s the fool who doesn’t know his wife is being bullied right in front of him. He even calls himself that, and it’s an excellent moment of verbiage, because it describes him so perfectly at that moment and yet he’s using it in a context removed from the reality before him.
I love that Myung Jin and Han Soo are dating while being on different sides of the situation that’s developing between Chan Joo and Jin Sae. I just have to say, though, you should never invite someone who has long nails to go bowling, because all their nails will break.
Chan Joo: Do you think about Mom a lot?
Chan Joo’s Father: I think about her a little bit after breakfast…and a little bit while I pick these peaches. A little bit after lunch, and again a little bit after I lie down in bed at night. A little bit here and there.
Chan Joo: Every day…Every second…It sounds like that.
The above is an exchange about loss, something Chan Joo is closely familiar with. Her father lost his wife, but she also lost her mother; she’s lost a lover, has had a miscarriage, almost (deliberately) lost her life, and now stands to lose her marriage. When she says, “every day, every second,” what she’s expressing is that loss isn’t something that occurs and then ends. It’s something that lasts long after the singular act. Absence, (e.g. Jin Sae’s increasing absence in their relationship) maintains a constant presence. She lives with the loss of all these things daily; that’s why the subject of having children is such a delicate one. Jin Sae wants kids, made clear from when he asked Chan Joo about it after she’d gone to the hospital for overeating (remember how Chan Joo had remained silent and he’d agreeably retracted his request?), but we also know that their romance is built within the context of her miscarriage. The reason they are a couple, the reason she agreed to marry him, is because he witnessed her at her lowest point and wasn’t disgusted. He didn’t run away. His “staying by her side,” as her father phrases it, is part of what defines their relationship, and it’s this aspect of their romance that complicates the present situation further for Chan Joo. Because in society’s eyes and in Chan Joo’s mind, when Jin Sae–a young, good-looking, financially stable, kind man–married her, he got damaged goods.
This is what her father, who has an amiable relationship with his son-in-law (no doubt framed by his relationship with Eun Hyuk, who broke his daughter’s heart), reminds her of when he tells her that Jin Sae “stayed by her side.” So he’s seeing some girl–he still treats you well, he still accepts you with all your flaws. Now this is not at all what Chan Joo’s father says to her, and in fact he playfully demands that Jin Sae treat her well at all times, not just when he’s in front of him, but that is the general sentiment behind his words. What he intimates is that whatever the reason for their current disagreement, Chan Joo should find a way to forgive him, because he’s been good to her when others haven’t.
This is actually the same problem Jin Sae had with Ran at the end of episode 3: that she felt indebted to him. The thing about Jin Sae and love is that he likes to help people. He likes to be of service, it’s how he expresses his love. He cooks for Chan Joo, is proud about being able to provide for her financially, pays for things for Ran, works on Chan Joo’s father’s farm and offers to sell his peaches to his colleagues. And, with his asking to marry her even after seeing her at her worst, Chan Joo feels a great deal of debt to him. In any context a husband cheating on his wife would be terrible, but in their context, Chan Joo wonders what right she has to be angry.
All the bullying Chan Joo is suffering at In Kyung’s hands isn’t even for something she desires; she is suffering because of Eun Hyuk’s desires. She is not the real target of In Kyung’s maliciousness, Eun hyuk is. She is just the means by which In Kyung exacts her punishment, a tool in the drama of her marriage. Yet it is Chan Joo who suffers the most. I don’t want to remove any blame from In Kyung for her decisions and actions, but the fact remains that she is burdened by Eun Hyuk’s feelings for her. Eun Hyuk cares enough about her to stay with In Kyung and retract his request for a divorce, but he doesn’t go the whole Noble Sacrifice™ route and apply himself to pleasing In Kyung. He stays with her, but only that, nothing more that could soothe her into believing he legitimately cares for her and thereby keep her from going after Chan Joo.
Even amidst all this Chan Joo remains gracious and generous. She’s so wide and thorough in her forgiveness of Jin Sae. A list of the ways in which she forgives him: she goes back to Seoul with him; she doesn’t tell her father what he’s done; she boldly tells In Kyung and Eun Hyuk that she has no intention of leaving her husband. When she confronts Ran she’s so calm. I can see how she can be read as being condescending to Ran, but what I see is a woman who’s been profoundly betrayed before, a woman who’s chosen to forgive someone who just hurt her deeply, a woman who feels she shouldn’t have to deal with this girl who calls her ajumma and makes a mockery of her marriage. And then, after telling In Kyung and Eun Hyuk she’s wholly devoted to her husband, after forgiving Jin Sae, after the short sweetness of telling Ran off, she has to suffer the indignity of seeing Ran defend Jin Sae. This is a perfect example of what I pointed put before, about the difference between Ran and Chan Joo’s strengths. Ran slaps Ho Ki, and with this act she publicly declares what she feels for Jin Sae, what he means to her. Chan Joo does the same thing with each and every time she chooses him, with each declaration she makes to In Kyung, with her total forgiveness. But because hers is a quieter, less extravagant strength, it could easily go unnoticed.
Another way Chan Joo forgives Jin Sae is by proposing to get rid of her bed and sleep on the floor with him from then on. In the final scene of this episode she sleeps on her bed, looking down where Jin Sae should be, but is not. He’s outside, drinking alone. When he comes in to try to smooth things over, her well of forgiveness is dry. Her reconciliation with Jin Sae and her confrontation with Ran were private events, but what she witnesses afterwards is a public spectacle. She leaves their bedroom to go sleep outside. Their bedroom is a very important site in the drama, and the vicissitudes of their relationship could be charted in screencaps of it. In the first episode we see them making love on her bed; after catching him with Ran in the rain we see her climbing into bed with him; in episode 5, after Jin Sae has left her dinner to help Ran, we see her alone faking sleep; and here we see her leave her bed, leave the room for Jin Sae alone.
One day, a robber barged in. He took money, clothes, and the car. When there was nothing else to take, he moved into the master bedroom. My house that was taken over by the robber. Is it really my house?
Ran: When Ran goes to visit her parents’ gravesite she says she’s giving Jin Sae up, but this is after Chan Joo has already pointed out the inconsistency in her logic. I still feel she’s “giving him up” only because she believes she’s already lost him; it’s still brave of her, though, to let go of someone she sees doesn’t want her, when so many a kdrama second lead does the exact opposite, with exasperating results.
Chan Joo: Chan Joo is struck when she hears that In Kyung wants to go abroad with Eun Hyuk. It hits something in her and she isn’t prepared for it. The entire course of the show she has never once given Eun Hyuk the impression that she wants him back, but here we see something in her, a hesitance, that Eun Hyuk notices and latches on to. This time, when she tells him to leave and disappear from her life, we don’t see her face; it’s one of the little things I love about this show, how the storytelling deliberately involves all aspects of film, from the dialogue to music to the acting–we have to notice the camera angle here to understand the full scope of this interaction. There’s a change. And when she hears from Myung Jin that he’s leaving the next day, her reaction isn’t one of joy or relief. Yet when Baek In Kyung asks her if she wants to say goodbye to him, she declines.
Jin Sae: In this episode Jin Sae is experiencing doubt about Chan Joo, the same as she experienced back in episode 3 when she saw him in the rain. He’s been trying to make up for his indiscretion, but now he realizes that Chan Joo has been keeping secrets of her own, and that he’s been interacting with part of her secret without any knowledge of it himself. (Remember he always kept Chan Joo separate from his affair with Ran.)
After her meeting with Eun Hyuk, Chan Joo finds Jin Sae drinking by himself in front of the convenience store, what he always does when he’s troubled. Jin Sae knows she’s lying when she tells him she was meeting “someone from the publishing department,” but he doesn’t call her out on it. Instead he does as Chan Joo had done with seeing him in the rain and with Ho Ki’s phone call. He doesn’t accuse her, doesn’t let on that he knows anything. He says, “Honey, us sleeping in separate bedrooms, let’s stop that. I will be much better. Not to create things that would worry you, I will try my very best.” He reminds her of the promise he made to her father to protect her for life (ergh) and then they both clean their home together. But that night they still sleep separately, Chan Joo on her bed and Jin Sae out on the couch.
Ho Ki: I dislike him so much. In the last episode he deliberately brought Ran to the restaurant where he saw Chan Joo and Jin Sae, just so that he could rub it in her face that he was right. He only cares about Ran to the extent that he’s interested in her, doesn’t respect her as an individual with her own desires. How many times has Ran told him to leave her alone? Why does he think it’s ok to persist in pursuing her romantically when she’s made it clear she’s not interested in him in that way?
I remember wondering why Jin Sae didn’t immediately think that it was Ho Ki who had called Chan Joo, and why he didn’t go to confront him. Seeing how he was with him at the end of episode 6 made me realize something: Jin Sae doesn’t really consider him as having a stake in anything that’s happening. He thinks Ho Ki is beside the point. That’s part of why he doesn’t fight him that night (the other part being that fighting him would be an affront to Chan Joo), and that may be why he didn’t confront him about the phone call.
Chan Joo arranges a dinner so she can tell Jin Sae everything. She’s finally willing to talk, just when Jin Sae no longer is. It’s not that they’re on different paths, it’s that they’re not timed up at the same pace. At the dinner she tells him, “There is something I need to tell you. I really don’t know where to begin. Actually for some time there were things that were hard for me. I wanted to bury them but I felt so guilty. ” Jin Sae latches on to that word, “guilty.” He isn’t struck by her saying she was having a rough time. He doesn’t associate her “guilt” to her ever-present insecurities about her past and his relation to it, but links it to possible infidelity. He asks, “Do you feel guilty about a man?” instead of “What things were hard for you?”; he asks “When did you start seeing him?” instead of “Why did you feel so guilty?”
And he leaves to go find Ran. Given the history of Chan Joo’s self-reproach about her past, I find his reaction…a bit disingenuous, even though I acknowledged before that he was the fool (the same word he uses to describe himself here) in the drama unravelling between the 4 for his ignorance of the truth, for Chan Joo’s choice to keep him ignorant. I can’t help but feel that he simply took this opportunity to go look for Ran. After all, it isn’t like he was 100% faithful while Chan Joo was running around behind his back, cheating on him. In fact, while he was flirting with Ran, Chan Joo was fighting Eun Hyuk off. Jin Sae doesn’t wait for an explanation, he doesn’t give Chan Joo a chance to tell him what she has to say; he just makes assumptions and comes to unfounded conclusions and when she starts to explain her actions and her fear of her past, but he cuts her off. But the situation is graver than his not listening to her; it’s a pivotal moment in their relationship. Chan Joo tries to stop him physically by grabbing his arm. He pulls her hand off of him, tells her they can talk when he gets back, and goes to the woman he admitted had swayed him from his faithfulness to her. In that moment, he chooses Ran over Chan Joo. He does publicly, in front of Chan Joo, what he’s been doing privately for a while now. Chan Joo has yet to choose anyone over him.
In the closing scene of the episode we come back to Chan Joo, and this time we see her in a location totally foreign to her, but with an atmosphere that’s eerily familiar. Instead of the room and house she shares with Jin Sae, she’s in Ran’s apartment–a place she, not Chan Joo, shares with Jin Sae. All the effort Chan Joo has exerted to protect her marriage seems to have been for naught; the very reason why she didn’t tell Jin Sae about Eun Hyuk is developing; and then she finds out more about what has been going on between her husband and Ran: he got her a place to live. The stereotypical thing men do for their mistresses. This throws his relationship with the younger woman in a whole other light. He wasn’t just flirting with her, he wasn’t just “swayed.” He provided for her materially. The pride he takes in being able to support Chan Joo if she decided to stop working, the promise he made to her father to care for her forever, he’s doing these things with Ran. She goes to the storage unit to retrieve Jin Sae, to bring him back home, but he’s not there, and what she finds instead is this bizarre reproduction of her own life with him, a twilight zone of romantic coziness, made all the more unsettling by the sensor activated light that keeps going on and off as she passes in front of the door. She enters this alternate domestic haven–this was where Jin Sae has been spending all his time–and sees the boxers Ran hung up (we know it’s not Jin Sae’s but all she knows is that they are just the type he likes–which is emblematic of Jin Sae’s dalliance with Ran; he’s never slept with her, never kissed her, but he’s given personal parts of himself over to her, and it’s a betrayal). And then she sees the perfume he’d gotten her for her birthday, the exact same one, another sign of her non-exceptionalism. In Ran’s kitchen there are 2 bowls, 2 sets of utensils, and pictures of her and Jin Sae in moments Chan Joo was not a part of; on her night table is a men’s razor and men’s socks. When Eun Hyuk left her he did it all at once, and the blow was massive. But with this betrayal Chan Joo has the evidence laid out all about her, and she has to walk through it, step by step. It’s the difference between a shot to the head and drowning. We’re shown Chan Joo and Jin Sae’s happiness through their moments of domesticity, and with this scene their happiness is felled because that domesticity is something Jin Sae has established with Ran.
Why do we keep having problems? I don’t know why. We were laughing and playing every day. Making jokes. I can’t even remember when that was. On this road on your birthday, do you remember what you said to me? I have actually memorized all that. 43, 53, 63, up to 83…I want to grow old with you. …No matter how hard it is, let’s get through it together.
I believe Jin Sae when he says he loves Chan Joo and that he wants to stay with her, but he keeps on making decisions that run counter to that. His marriage is in crisis. If he wants to stay with Chan Joo, if he wants his marriage to work, then he made the absolute wrong decision in choosing Ran over her. He can’t have both; he has to choose. When I consider this I have to conclude that the central problem in the show is actually a concern with monogamy, because sometimes I get so frustrated with the characters I just want to tell them to have an open relationship and get it over with. What raises Jin Sae’s ire, more than anything, is that Eun Hyuk presumes to “take responsibility” for Chan Joo, and he considers that to be his domain, especially with what he knows of how Eun Hyuk treated Chan Joo in the past. That’s why after listening to the phone call he asks to meet up with him, while he hadn’t after he’d seen Chan Joo get out of his car in the previous episode. For him, Eun Hyuk was as beside the point as Ho Ki, but now he’s a threat that needs to be neutralized.
The Glass Menagerie is Eun Hyuk’s favorite play. A menagerie is collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition, and that may be how he feels, like a man kept in captivity by a woman he doesn’t love, ensnared in a family for political reasons, not filial ones. Like Tom Wingfield, he longs to escape. Eun Hyuk rationalizes that it’s ok to see Chan Joo one last time, because he’ll never see her again. I don’t think he takes advantage of her vulnerability in the hotel room, but he does capitalize on it. When he calls Chan Joo she, in a daze, asks him to take her somewhere and says it doesn’t matter where. So he takes her to a hotel. And she follows him in. He doesn’t force her into the room. He stands with the door open and waits for her to decide, and she makes the choice to enter. But after they’re in the room, he guides her into a chair, brings her water to drink, urges her to reconsider her choices, promises to never make her cry again, and then kisses her. The whole time he is acting upon her. Instead of answering her questions–“Why did you come back? No. Why did you leave me? If you hadn’t left me like that, I wouldn’t be this pathetic right now.”– he steers the conversation back to the possibility of them reuniting. Still, when they are about to sleep together Chan Joo is an active participant, not wide-eyed and unmoving, like some inanimate object, like so many of her damsel counterparts. I love this about her. She’s not just a chaste woman who is constantly being abused; she’s active in her own downfall and makes bad decisions, just like Eun Hyuk and Jin Sae. She’s explicitly sexual, but her sexuality doesn’t condemn her; it’s just something she does, like everyone else in the drama.
And just one last note: the most shocking moments in this drama don’t lie in the slaps In Kyung gives Eun Hyuk or the threats leveled at Chan Joo; they’re in the little betrayals, the small details that can shift the entire implication of a scene. A great example of this comes at the very end of this episode. That Eun Hyuk and Jin Sae are facing off is important and engrossing, but what really caught me was that they are having this tête-à-tête in the same bar that Chan Joo and Eun Hyuk always meet up in. It’s a place that has been the site of so much of their relationship–their break up and their reunion–and it holds many memories for them. It’s a private place, one where the bartender knows them both and knows their history, and this is where Eun Hyuk has decided to meet up with Jin Sae. Jin Sae, of course, doesn’t know any of this; it’s something only Eun Hyuk and we, the audience, are aware of. It’s a sign of how little Eun Hyuk thinks of Jin Sae. He routinely tries to convince Chan Joo that what they have is stronger than whatever she has in her marriage, and here he’s made her husband come to a place he stands outside of–just like Chan Joo when she was in Ran’s apartment. And in keeping with their characterizations, Chan Joo was aware of her alienation/displacement in that space, while here Jin Sae is not.
Chan Joo: You’re late. I was waiting, I must have fallen asleep.
Jin Sae: Say it’s not true. With that guy, nothing happened.
Chan Joo: What are you talking about, Jin Sae?
Jin Sae: The other night, I know you were with that guy. I trust you, so…
Chan Joo: I don’t want to make an excuse. It’s true that I made a mistake.
Jin Sae: Mistake?
Chan Joo: Yes, I made a mistake. I wasn’t myself after I saw the storage building. I happened to see him then. I wanted to be comforted—no. I even had this overwhelming anger. When I was trying to stop you, you wanted to go to her—
Jin Sae: I admit that I was a coward and petty, but could you think about this once from my point of view? The fact that you and your old boyfriend went to see each other again in any possible way, I couldn’t stand it. It’s not because I didn’t trust you, it’s just that the fact itself was such a shock to me.
Chan Joo: Not because you didn’t trust me? Look at us. What is this? You are not the Jin Sae I know and I’m not the same either. We…Let’s stay apart for a little while.
Jin Sae: What?
Chan Joo: It’s true. We’re both tired. We keep having problems. Let’s try to take some time off from each other.
Jin Sae: Why are you acting this way? Will running away solve our problems? Just…Let’s bring it all out tonight. Lay it all out. Whether we fight over it or make up, let’s do whatever it takes.
Chan Joo: What more do you want to talk about? That you started to have feelings for another woman? That I saw my ex boyfriend? That we both made mistakes? Or that we both don’t trust each other, so we hurt each other?
Jin Sae: I agree. We both were such idiots. Day and night, we were laughing, teasing, playing house. We were living like we were dating. What it really means to be a couple, what it was that we really wanted, have you thought about it?
Chan Joo: What is it that you really want to say?
Jin Sae: That’s right. I wanted us to have a baby. No matter what scar you got from that guy, I wanted us to create our own family, and make our family have deep roots. That’s how I wanted to live.
Chan Joo: Is that how you’ve been living? You’ve buried my past in a corner of your heart, pretending it doesn’t bother you.
Jin Sae: That’s not what I’m saying.
Chan Joo: No. You are blaming me. This is why I told you to run from me at the hospital. Why didn’t you run from me when I was telling you to?
Jin Sae: Stop it.
Chan Joo: I knew you were going to be like this. I knew you were going to change.
Jin Sae: That’s enough, Seo Chan Joo!
Chan Joo: You’re suffocating me! You’re suffocating me to death. I study your face every minute and I feel sorry. In doing so I feel suffocated to death.
Jin Sae: Are you done talking?
Chan Joo: No. Should I go on? I could have let you go.
Jin Sae: Stop it! I told you to stop! It’s not just you. I’ve seen you struggle deep in the past. I have to be careful of every minute so I won’t hurt your feelings. What was the past really like? I begin picturing images in my head before I even realize it. I’m just going crazy here too.
Chan Joo: Look at us. This. This is how we are.
This may be one of my favorite exchanges in kdrama, along with the ones Eun Chan and Han Gyul have at the apple farm and after they’ve broken up and the ones Dok Mi and Enrique have at her front door and when they go to the beach. It’s so complex; it builds on the entirety of their relationship, which involves Chan Joo’s past with Eun Hyuk and these latent insecurities and desires they’ve kept hidden from the other in order to maintain their marriage and in an effort to achieve happiness for themselves; it’s a breaking point for them because there are so many things they have done themselves and to the other that they do not have the generosity or will to forgive just yet, and everywhere they look is evidence of a deep failure, evidence that they shouldn’t be together, evidence that something is very, very wrong. I love that none of this is contrived. Malta and I were talking about Heirs the other day, and what she explained to me is that individual scenes can be very clever and entertaining, but when put together, it all falls apart; when you actually think about the show, instead of reaching an understanding, the mechanics at play simply become painfully apparent, and it loses all coherence, but worse, you lose any interest in it. The difference in this melodrama from the more sensational ones is that there is no misunderstanding between Chan Joo and Jin Sae. They understand each other and their situation perfectly, and it just makes their falling out that much more distressful.
It starts off with Chan Joo in a mindset of normalcy, her first words an expected greeting. But Jin Sae has just come from his confrontation with Eun Hyuk, and his first words are urgent and jarring. He wants her to reassure him that nothing happened with Eun Hyuk, but she doesn’t. Instead she tells him that she made a “mistake,” and she never makes it clear that she stopped short of sleeping with him–at this point, the fact that she wanted to sleep with Eun Hyuk and acted on it, the fact that she wanted it as a sort of retaliation against Jin Sae for having chosen Ran over her, constitutes enough of a betrayal; her not actually sleeping with Eun Hyuk changes nothing. Jin Sae explains that his running off to Ran in itself was a reaction to discovering her and Eun Hyuk still in contact. I use the term “running off” deliberately here, because one of the things that characterizes their relationship is that Jin Sae didn’t “run away” from her when he discovered her past–but he keeps running to someone else now.
When Jin Sae says “it’s not that I didn’t trust you,” he’s trying to assure her that his faith in her wasn’t shaken, that he didn’t find fault in her, necessarily, just the continued relationship between her and Eun Hyuk. But Chan Joo doesn’t accept this and suggests they take some time apart. Jin Sae doesn’t want this at all, even though (arguably) he now thinks Chan Joo slept with Eun Hyuk. He displays a violence she’s never witnessed before, and at this point I think he’s as frustrated with himself as much as he’s angry with Chan Joo. He wants to bare everything, to say everything they’ve been too polite to say so far, and then move on from there. And so he tells her he wanted kids. His logic is that the natural progression of marriage is children and raising a family, and if Chan Joo cannot overcome the “scar” left by Eun Hyuk (and I think he makes a big mistake here; it isn’t just Eun Hyuk’s leaving her that gives her such immense pause when it comes to children, it’s that and her miscarriage combined), then what have they been doing, and where are they going? What is the point? I get the feeling that he feels their relationship should have entirely superseded what she had with Eun Hyuk, and the fact that it hasn’t aggravates him. Chan Joo is more hurt by this, by his saying he wants kids, than she is by him trying to convince her that he never stopped trusting her. For Chan Joo, this impasse in their marriage isn’t a surprise. It’s as if she’s always known that this–this mistrust, this betrayal, this anger and frustration and resentment–was bound to happen; there was this dejected fatalism to her in the scene at the hospital, and it’s an undercurrent to her relationship with Jin Sae. Chan Joo has always feared that Jin Sae would grow to resent her; this is what she refers to when she says she’s been “studying his face”; she’s been waiting for this to happen, and now she feels it’s come true. But Jin Sae is working from another starting point, one in which their relationship isn’t overshadowed by the tragedy Chan Joo experienced with Eun Hyuk. So for him this is simply something that they need to work through, a surmountable obstacle they’ve encountered. When Jin Sae explains how cautious he’s had to be with her it’s a reference to the fatalism I mentioned before; it’s like their entire relationship he’s been trying to prove himself to her, been trying to convince her of his loyalty and has been swimming against the current of her skepticism that he could really be sincere. And so the fundamental disturbance in their relationship is (as is usually the case in the stories that move me the most) doubt.
Chan Joo gave the relationship a chance on pure faith, on hope, on the optimism she felt when Jin Se wasn’t disgusted with her or afraid of her, not on anything concrete. It’s not to say that she doesn’t love him, that she’s in this relationship only because she is being loved, but that she’s much more cautious in her love than Jin Sae is, and that her understanding of romantic love is much more qualified/conditional than his.
In the following, what Jin Sae is saying is “What if I forgave you?” But that would be too much of a blow to Chan Joo’s dignity, which is already suffering greatly, and what we’re left with is a situation where love can’t solve anything:
In the end, is this the only way? What if I say that nothing happened? What if I tell you that I wouldn’t make any issue? Honey, this isn’t good. You’ve made me into someone who can’t even keep his promise. Till the end, you make me beg for another chance.
What if I say I love you?
That it’s not because of the promise with your dad or my pride or whatever, but that I can’t let you go because I love you?
Note how cautious Jin Sae is there, hedging his words. this is not the confidence he displayed at the hospital. I think it’s a sign of how much their relationship has eroded.
On Eun Hyuk
Back in episode 8, when Chan Joo and Eun Hyuk were in the car, he tells her if she asks him to stay he will, but she tells him to go and start over with In Kyung. Eun Hyuk makes as though he’ll do whatever Chan Joo says, but the truth is he’ll only do what she says if it’s already what he wants to do. Even with all his persuasion, she still refuses to give him what he wants, to ask him to stay. Why is it that the 2 times she’s given in to him matter more for him than the several times Chan Joo has rebuffed him? In this episode Eun Hyuk is tortured (waterboarded!), and he insists that he’s stayed because he cannot leave Chan Joo behind when she’s having problems with her husband, even though logic would say that his leaving would actually help her marriage. Now in this episode he tells Chan Joo they should run away together, with no thought about her life in Seoul, about her ties to her family and friends and to her husband. All the while she begs him “not to do this.” And I just want to note that Chan Joo doesn’t get a divorce and go to Eun Hyuk. (I think there’s more of a love triangle between Chan Joo, Jin Sae, and Ran than there is between Jin Sae, Chan Joo, and Eun Hyuk.) My question for Eun Hyuk is why does his freedom need to be tied with Chan Joo? If he could escape Moon Ho group but not have Chan Joo, would he?
- The difference between Chan Joo and Jin Sae and In Kyung and Eun Hyuk is that Chan Joo and Jin Sae focus on each other and don’t bring other people into their problems. Jin Sae has feelings for Ran, but Chan Joo doesn’t go after Ran; she recognizes the problem is between her and her husband. It’s the same case with Jin Sae and Eun Hyuk; Jin Sae only asks to meet him after Eun Hyuk has made himself a part of the problem (“you are having problems with your husband because of me”) and even then Jin Sae just tells him to back off; he doesn’t involve Eun Hyuk any further, doesn’t try to hurt or control Chan Joo through Eun Hyuk, doesn’t think that if Eun Hyuk disappears, so will all his marital problems. When Ran and Eun Hyuk comment on their marriage, Chan Joo and Jin Sae both tell them it isn’t any of their business. It’s because what they want from the other is honesty; they want sincerity in their relationship, and won’t settle for the sham that In Kyung is willing to accept from Eun Hyuk. She’s unreasonable and illogical in her actions.
- Ran is admirably honest, as usual, and Jin Sae finally tells her straight that he doesn’t want to confuse her any longer, which is a relief. For all his attraction to Ran, and as much as I sympathize with her and can imagine her and Jin Sae together as happy lovers, he is still very much in love with his wife. When Ran tells him she knows about the problems he’s facing he’s visibly upset, and he takes none of the comfort Ran offers him.
- For all his cluelessness, Jin Sae displays a surprising awareness in his first confrontation with Eun Hyuk. He grabs Eun Hyuk by his jacket, but he realizes there’s a certain absurdity to his actions, a certain absurdity to their situation, as does Eun Hyuk, who asks him, almost mockingly, “Are you going to throw a punch, too?” In the usual melodrama a punch would be thrown, and that would be it, but here they can see the cliche they’re enacting. The general reluctance he shows for physical confrontation frames his attack on Eun Hyuk; it’s an extreme act on his part, and the show recognizes it, as immediately afterwards we are shown that a month has passed since the altercation.
On Chan Joo and Jin Sae
I love the moment when Chan Joo is about to drink water straight from the jug and she stops and gets a cup. She remembers to do something she’d always forgotten to do when she was with Jin Sae. Chan Joo says “Now is when we say ‘separating isn’t the end.'” What she means is that even after you leave someone you still remember the time you spent together and you still miss them, that while a part of your life may be over, you, who lived through it, still exist, and therefore it still exists. This show is all about the past and how it can rise up to effect the present. As she’s saying this we move over to Jin Sae, who’s at home, watching a movie alone. He remembers teasingly making jam with Chan Joo from her father’s peaches, and he gets it out of the fridge and tastes it. Then he gets bread and makes a meal for himself. The whole episode Han Soo and Ran have been commenting on how he hasn’t been eating, hasn’t been caring for himself; his not eating is a manifestation of his depression, but narratively it works as a way to represent Chan Joo’s absence from his life. So when he starts eating Chan Joo’s jam, it’s like even though she’s gone she, or what he feels for her, is still providing him nourishment, is pulling him out of his stupor. As Chan Joo said, “Separating isn’t the end.” And then when Chan Joo returns to the house she cooks a birthday soup for him, again doing what she didn’t when they were together.
- The aftermath of their divorce is different for Jin Sae because he still lives in the same home and is surrounded by everything they shared. As we’ve seen before, place is incredibly important in this drama, and I don’t think it bodes well for Ran’s chances that Jin Sae doesn’t move out.
- Eun Hyuk tells Chan Joo, “Chan Joo, all of this has already happened. There is no going back.” Hilarious, given that he’s been trying to reignite a romance he brutally left.
- Chan Joo handed her wedding ring over to Jin Sae, but Jin Sae is still wearing his.
- Chan Joo seems as though she’s doing better than Jin Sae. Still, she’s taking prescription sleeping pills, she doesn’t smile and responds to questions in a monotone, she walks around in a daze, and she spent a month holed away in her new apartment. It’s so telling that Chan Joo can’t find a job while Eun Hyuk just goes on his merry way.
- We find out that the key code to the storage building, the one Chan Joo figured out so easily back in episode 7, is Jin Sae’s birthday.
- Jin Sae tells Ran he doesn’t feel the same anymore, and that he doesn’t want to hurt her; he tries to explain that he’s divorced now, but that doesn’t mean anything to Ran. She either doesn’t know or doesn’t care (which is more likely) about what it means to date a divorced man. She’s so stubborn, poor girl; brave, bright girl; and she loves him.
- When Chan Joo enters her former bedroom the huge wedding photo that used to be up is gone.
- In the kitchen Chan Joo sees evidence that counters Jin Sae’s claim of being well, the garbage full of empty beer cans. I wonder why he doesn’t throw that dented thing away? What does it mean to him, what is it meant to represent?
*Can anyone tell what Jin Sae watches while remembering brighter times with Chan Joo? I’d really like to know.
Jin Sae: In this dark empty house, there are many times when my mind is troubled. When I think it’s all over, the old and bitter memories will unexpectedly pop out. …The bittersweet scenes of my past keep popping up. Now, it’s time to make a decision.
Chan Joo: For us to be free from each other, I told him to have a clean start. A thought came to me. If I see that girl next to Jin Sae, I might be relieved. Since I got married, until now, I’ve felt indebted toward Jin Sae. We were married for only three years, but I gave him a scar that will last a lifetime. And it’s the same now too. I…I saw them together. And they looked happy. I can do nothing for him.
Well, this episode just broke my heart. I love whenever Chan Joo and Ran meet, because we get to see two women who differ so in temperament and experience, and it’s fascinating to see how they play off each other. Up till now Ran is always defiant before Chan Joo, always challenging her about her conviction in her marriage with Jin Sae. Chan Joo, meanwhile, is always a little aloof, a little amused, and by the end of their exchanges, somehow changed. They both are analytical of whatever the other says, always searching for holes in the other’s logic. In this faceoff I think Ran is rather presumptuous, to ask Chan Joo never to see Jin Sae again, and to declare that she’s going to erase Chan Joo from Jin Sae’s life, which actually is a statement that goes against what the show has been exploring. Chan Joo is over a decade older than her, and is tired. I also think Ran feels threatened by Chan Joo, more threatened now than she was when she and Jin Sae were actually married, to the point that it seems like she’s looking to make a rival out of Chan Joo, when Chan Joo has no plans to play that role, when she is, in fact, rooting for them.
- The moment right after Chan Joo tells Jin Sae she “wish[es they] could be free of each other,” was heartbreaking, in an episode that was full of heartbreak. Jin Sae looks deflated after the words leave her mouth, and he looks down and answers a soft “Oh” (meaning yes). He says if she has any good news she should tell him (talking about future marriage possibilities) and Chan Joo responds with a barely audible “You too.” And then comes one of the best scenes of the show: Chan Joo and Jin Sae part, but instead of the closeups we’re so used to, we see them from across the road, with cars and trucks passing them by as first one says goodbye and then the other says farewell, both in these mournful tones, both lingering, pauses stretching between them, until there’s nothing left but for Chan Joo to leave him.
My father. Why didn’t he have anything to say to me?
I said before that a difference between Ran and Chan Joo is that Ran is lonely while Chan Joo is surrounded by friends and family, but I was wrong, in a way. Chan Joo does have friends and colleagues in Seoul, but she is profoundly lonely as well. Hers is one she’s had since childhood, and it seems that she’s carried it within her her whole life. Her mother died when she was young, and so she was raised by her father. When Jin Sae asks her father to tell him about Chan Joo, he tells him a story about how when she was little she was very affectionate with him, until one day she simply stopped, and he muses that it was probably because she’d figured out that he was seeing a woman, and that while it was natural for a widow to feel lonely, it must have been difficult for a child to understand. At his funeral there are very few mourners and Han Soo notes that Chan Joo must have had a lonesome childhood. The one constant in Chan Joo’s life has been her father, and throughout the drama we’ve seen him speak more to Jin Sae than he has to Chan Joo. His last words are not to his daughter, but to his son-in-law, who he knows no longer carried that name.
Chan Joo has to bear the loss of her father, but she also has to bear the knowledge that her father died with the discovery of another one of her failures.; his last breath was used begging Jin Sae to forgive her. It must cause such heartache to know that her father has been witness to all the pain she’s borne, and that even though he stayed quiet he was suffering, too, that he was scared for her and wanted her to find happiness. I wonder how her relationship with her parents reflects on her not wanting to have children? In this episode Jin Sae says that he’ll bear the shame of not having paid proper respects to Chan Joo’s father for the rest of his life, but Chan Joo is in the same situation. She let her father down with Eun Hyuk and the whole debacle that ensued afterwards, and she let her father down again with her divorce.
On Ran and Jin Sae
Jin Sae is a very proper person, (which makes his relationship with Ran while he was still married all the more remarkable), and that’s why he takes concrete steps towards a real relationship with Ran only after he’s secure in the knowledge that he will not see Chan Joo again. This is the fourth time these two have said their goodbyes to one another: there was when Chan Joo gave him her wedding ring and handed him the signed divorce papers, there was when he handed over her mail, and there was last episode, when she told him she’d be going with Eun Hyuk from then on. When he goes to find Ran she literally runs away from him and he has to run after after her. He finds out where she is staying, even though she moves out without telling him, tracks her down, waits for her outside her new digs, and runs after her. He’s the one pursuing her, now, and it’s an explicit act on his part. I think he makes the decision to have Ran move in with him on the spur of the moment, as a last desperate offering to get her to stay. It’s rash and it’s not completely thought out, but it works. When Ran hugs him, he immediately hugs her back, a sign that there is some sincerity behind his words (at the beginning of episode 11 Ran hugs him but he doesn’t reciprocate; in fact he pushes her away), but when the camera pans to his face, it’s not one of a person who’s just won back their lover. He’s still unsure, still doesn’t display that confidence he had with Chan Joo.
When Ran steps into Jin Sae’s home, we circle back to the end of episode 7, when Chan Joo went to Ran’s storage unit. Here Ran enters the house she shared with Jin Sae, and she’s the foreigner. That couch? Chan Joo and Jin Sae watched movies on it together. That small room? Chan Joo’s father slept in there when he came to visit. That kitchen? Jin Sae and Chan Joo ate breakfast there each morning. She’s invited in by Jin Sae, he wants her there, but it’s still a place that is full of someone else’s presence, and not at all like newlyweds coming home. He’s still uncomfortable talking about Chan Joo with Ran, and when she asks him if Chan Joo knows about her living here with him, she finally discovers why he’s suddenly so much more proactive about our relationship. But this is something she already suspected, because even before Chan Joo had decided to leave for New York, Ran had asked her never to see Jin Sae again. Ran has a sense that in her relationship with Jin Sae her real obstacle is the past he shared with Chan Joo–a past she literally lives in now. Remember Chan Joo’s voiceover in episode 6? She said, “One day, a robber barged in. He took money, clothes, and the car. When there was nothing else to take, he moved into the master bedroom. My house that was taken over by the robber. Is it really my house?” It turns out that even after the robber has moved in, the house may still not be theirs.
- This show is tearing me apart! I love seeing Ran so happy and fulfilled, but! Chan Joo and Jin Sae! How kind he is to her, and how comfortable she is with him; how flirtatious they are; how they’re both lushes; how they’re that couple, the sickeningly sweet one that simultaneously gives you goosebumps and gives you hope for your own romantic life; how they work together to be happy and how protective they are of the privacy of their relationship; I confess Ran’s happiness leaves me feeling bittersweet.
- Is it just me, or is Eun Hyuk completely useless? At least Jin Sae manages to make both Chan Joo and Ran happy, when he’s with them. But Eun Hyuk is just one disappointment after another, to all the people in his life. Chan Joo tells Myung Jin, “I will try to put my trust in him again.” And what does he do? He let’s her down again.
This may be a bit late, but that girl, Hong Ran…she seems all right. She is honest and confidant. Most of all, she is very sincere about you. And she’s young.
Chan Joo: What is it?
Ran: I saw you at the theater. I was there to see a movie with Ajusshi. I thought you’d gone to New York? Aren’t you supposed to be there?
Chan Joo: That’s right. Officially, I’m there. But, why are you asking me?
Ran: You didn’t go because of Ajusshi?
Chan Joo: I guess I know why you came to see me. What you are worried about won’t happen. I won’t be in your way. So you can go back relieved.
Ran: The fact that you are here is an obstacle to me. Ajusshi and I are living together in that house. We sleep in the same room where you used to sleep. We have fun in the living room where you used to watch TV. And your kitchen is now mine. Even if you ask me to give it back, I won’t–Ajusshi or the house. Because now they are all mine.
Chan Joo: Then what are you so worried about? When the house and Jin Sae are all yours, what are you nervous about? If you are nervous, does that mean you don’t have the confidence to protect them? If you have nothing else to say, I will be leaving now.
Ran: Please–can’t you leave? If you are not here, everything will stay the same. I really like Ajusshi. I’ve just started to like the house more. No. I really like how things are now. So could you please not interfere? And…that’s what Ajusshi wants, too.
Chan Joo: Let me ask you one thing. Do you sincerely love him?
Ran: Yes, I love him–
Chan Joo: No, not that. I asked you if you sincerely love him.
Ran: I do love him sincerely.
Chan Joo: Does he feel the same way?
Ran: No. He doesn’t. Actually, he hasn’t opened up to me yet. He thinks he might break my heart. He’s hesitant. At first I thought if I tried he would come around to me, but at some point I realized he was still in the same place. It’s all because of you. It’s because he still can’t forget you. Although you are divorced and have left for New York, he still can’t forget you. Now I realize what Ajusshi and I have is up to you. I’m asking you. Please. Leave here. So he can completely forget about you. Help him to do that.
Ran is ridiculously cute, and if this story were being told from her pov, it would be about the trials of falling for someone who doesn’t want you as much as you want them; they’re perfectly nice and all, but they don’t give you what you want them to. Ran makes Jin Sae smile, and I love seeing them both doing their part to make their relationship work–being generous, being conscientious–but there’s a difference to Jin Sae that gets lost in all the cute. It’s Ran who is the bright one here, Ran who is doing most of the heavy pulling in the relationship, and while she has always shone brighter than Jin Sae in their interactions, there’s a pliancy to Jin Sae here that gives me pause. Perhaps he’s still working his way out of the last grips of his depression or maybe he’s acquainting himself with the presence of someone new in the home he shared with Chan Joo. I feel like at this point in their relationship Jin Sae is waiting: waiting to recapture the initial spark he felt with Ran, before it was marred by Chan Joo’s discovery of it, waiting to feel what he felt for Chan Joo for Ran, waiting to forget Chan Joo. Right now he’s willing to change, willing to leave Chan Joo and his marriage behind (because Chan Joo is in another country, he believes; the only reason he’s willing is because it seems clear to him at this point that he has no chance with Chan Joo), but he hasn’t, yet. Ran knows this. She steps out of the bedroom they don’t share, the one he used to share with Chan Joo, and sees him sitting in the dark and it’s like she’s interrupting something, some private scene she isn’t supposed to witness. She quietly makes her way back. In the room that’s hers and isn’t hers, she discovers photos of a wedding she knows very little about, of a woman she knows even less about, a woman on whom she depends for her own romance to work.
On Chan Joo and Jin Sae
The problem between Chan Joo and Jin Sae isn’t one of infidelity or anger or jealousy. They both have it in them to forgive the other for whatever transgression they might commit, and we see after their divorce they remain amiable and genuinely want the other to be happy. It’s Chan Joo who insists on the divorce. I think Chan Joo couldn’t handle being forgiven again, she couldn’t handle the indebtedness she would feel towards Jin Sae. It’s an awful thing, to feel that particular sense of gratefulness to someone for loving you, because it’s like they’re loving you in spite of all your flaws, instead of loving you and accepting them. It makes the relationship unbalanced. You feel shame, you feel little, and that can grow to resentment. In divorcing Jin Sae Chan Joo was trying to save the good that was left in their relationship before it became dwarfed by the self-reproach she displayed in episode 6; she was trying to save herself as much as she is trying to save Jin Sae from her, which keeps this from being the usual case of Noble Sacrifice.
I won’t go as far as to say Jin Sae is retracing Chan Joo’s steps, but there are similarities in their failed romances: they got married the same day Eun Hyuk and In Kyung did, and now Ran moves in the same day Chan Joo leaves for New york–or is supposed to, anyway. And just as Chan Joo felt disgraced after her miscarriage, Jin Sae is socially marked as a divorced man. There are echoes like this that reverberate throughout the drama. In fact, Jin Sae urges Ran to leave with the very same words Chan Joo used to urge him to leave in the first episode, on the day of their wedding, “It’s not too late.”
- The shopping Jin Sae and Ran do here mimics what they did in episode 2, when they went shopping for stuff for Ran’s storage unit. Chan Joo ended up discovering those things at the end of episode 5, and here the things they buy end up at the house she used to share with Jin Sae.
- My hatred of Ho Ki continues. Shaming Ran because of his romantic feelings for her, acting like a concerned friends when what he really is is a Nice Guy™, trying to determine who she can and cannot be with. He goes further than concern, and anyway, his concern isn’t wanted. He’s petulant and, apparently, prejudiced.
- How does Jin Sae ask Chan Joo to stay? “What if I say I love you?” How does Eun Hyuk ask Chan Joo to stay? By listing all the things he’s done to be able to have her.
The Go Jin Sae who lived with me, what kind of person is he? How can he tend to his ex-wife’s late father’s birthday, and live with that girl in the same house that he shared with his ex-wife for three years? What is that about?
Here Chan Joo remarks on the incredible ambivalence Jin Sae displays. It’s something that defines his character, this tendency to commit acts that contradict one another. He’s so hesitant and cautious, but he’s dogged; says two different things to two different people, and means them both.
There’s an exploration of the public and private spheres in this drama. Chan Joo’s private life is splashed across Seoul newspapers, making it harrowingly public, and it effects her ability to find a job. She faces public censure for private acts (between consenting adults) and it affects her livelihood. It was this public spectacle of her life that brought the conflicts in her marriage to a breaking point before, and now it resurfaces. The other time their relationship was on display was in episode 6, when Ran slapped Ho Ki for punching Jin Sae. And now we come back to that, with Ran figuring out that Jin Sae has gone to her rescue with this new display.
Hyung, what was it like after your divorce? …Then, what was it like when you saw your ex-wife again? What I mean is, the first time you saw your ex-wife after the divorce, how was it? …Then, by any chance, do you still think about her? …I see… By the way, she resents me. I think she knows that Ran moved in.
This is the moment. This is when Jin Sae realizes that as much as he is striving to forget Chan Joo, he still loves her. That afternoon isn’t the first time he’s seen Chan Joo after their divorce, although it is the harshest she’s been with him since then. He’s going over all the times they’ve seen each other since they broke up, and he realizes that he does not feel toward her as a divorcee should feel. He does not feel the way someone who’s dating Ran should feel. He feels the way Chan Joo’s husband should feel. Depression and confusion in new relationship are to be expected after divorce, but this constant worry and consideration of her, this deep hurt at her words that they should no longer be in each others’ lives in any way, isn’t the norm. This is when he starts to realize that what he has with Ran isn’t going to work out. When Han Soo answers that he only thinks of his wife once or twice a year, Jin Sae gives this pathetic, self-deprecating laugh; he’s once again aware of the ridiculousness of his situation. There’s a deep of Han Soo telling him to think of who’s waiting at home for him, when he’s thinking of Chan Joo now, and continues to do so. Whatever happiness or comfort he might meet when he goes home to Ran doesn’t outweigh the distress he feels now at Chan Joo’s words. When he ignores Han Soo and keeps on drinking he chooses Chan Joo, or rather, what he feels for Chan Joo, over Ran.
Seo Chan Joo…
Ran takes such good care of Jin Sae, and then he says Chan Joo’s name. It’s a knife in the heart. She’s making so much effort and it amounts to nothing. She’s living in this house with him, but she’s alone; she’s next to him, not with him, because he’s removed from her. I keep thinking back to episode 4, when she told Jin Sae if he crossed the line into her storage space they would be in hell. Instead she was the one who crossed the line into his house–she was the one who wasn’t the coward–and she’s the one in hell. Jin Sae may be in a hell himself, but they are not in the same ones. In wiping Jin Sae’s hands and caring fro him in his drunken stupor, Ran is creating a private moment between them; she’s trying to take a little piece of Jin Sae for herself outside of the spectacle of Chan Joo’s scandal and how it ropes him in, but even in this she’s thwarted. Even in the dark, with Jin Sae asleep, Chan Joo is there, on his mind with her name on his lips.
How can she combat this? How can she make herself known, make herself acknowledged, make something concrete of this relationship that never seems to have moved on from that liminal space where it existed when it had to be a shared secret between her and Jin Sae, even though now they’re living in the same house and everyone knows they’re dating? Ran’s answer is to replace the physical things that remained of Chan Joo and Jin Sae’s marriage even after it was over–their wedding rings. It makes sense narratively, because when she and Jin Sae were in the ‘honeymoon period’ of their relationship there were physical things, symbols, to mark them as something more than just friends, of which the perfume (that she shared with Chan Joo) was one. She needs that now, something that shows what they are to one another, something tangible that can stand against all Chan Jo’s presence and Jin Sae’s reticence.
Enough is enough. Please let me go.
I love Chan Joo so freaking much. I remember wondering why Eun Hyuk insisted on tying his freedom with Chan Joo, and whether the love he has for her isn’t love at all, but a kind of lifeline he holds to the world outside of twisted Moon Ho Group. And here Chan Joo is, asking him to think of himself, to make a decision on his own, without tying anyone else to it. Just as Eun Hyuk has been asking In Kyung for his freedom, Chan Joo asks Eun Hyuk for hers. In this I see her pushing Jin Sae away from another angle: what Chan Joo wants for herself and for those around her is freedom. The question then becomes, can she and Jin Sae ever truly choose one another? With all the baggage they have, with all the promises and indebtedness, can they freely chooses one another without being beholden to anything else but their love and desire for one another? I think what she tells Eun Hyuk here would serve Jin Sae well, too: if she were to tell him to choose what he truly wants without considering her or Ran or her father’s dying wish, I think he would choose her.
I want to go back to episode 11. When Chan Joo explains to Ran that a formerly married couple’s relationship is complex, Ran responds with, “Isn’t that what you would think? …How can you still be so confident?” I think Ran strikes on something about Chan Joo that I’ve felt but haven’t been able to express before: she’s prideful. It doesn’t lapse into arrogance, and it doesn’t take away from her self-reproach, but she doesn’t feel in danger of Jin Sae’s attachment to her for very long. She felt it keenly when she first learned of Ran, but from the moment Jin Sae brings her back from her father’s farm on, she knows that if it were only up to him they would stay together. She feels what Ran is feeling now for some painful moments, but the obstacle in their romance has never been an unwillingness to take steps forward. In fact what characterized her and Jin Sae was that they leapt into marriage, the exact opposite of what Jin Sae is doing now with Ran.
- Chan Joo asks Eun Hyuk to let her go, just as he himself is getting roped back in by In Kyung (unintentionally on her part) in another way, in the way Chan Joo has been fighting against in her relationship with Jin Sae–indebtedness.
- Chan Joo tells Jin Sae they don’t know each other, that they never knew each other at all, but I can’t help but remember back in episode 3, when he knew something was bothering her cause of her overeating.
Since I moved in I thought if I did well you would understand how I feel and you would only think of me. That’s what I’ve been thinking. But I can’t do that anymore. What’s the point of me trying when you still can’t forget about your ex-wife? The memories that you had with her, no matter how hard I try to erase them, you still reminisce about your time with her that I know nothing about. …How long are you going to be like this? How long do we have to live like this? For god’s sake, when will you care for me? – Ran
In the last episode there was a voiceover by Chan Joo as the camera panned over all our principal characters. In it her musings reflected what each character was thinking and feeling, and it ended with her saying, “What we know for sure is that the truth is very sad.” It illustrated how each individual in their separate lives, with their separate pains and competing interests, had the same struggles and questions. In this episode we have another voiceover, but Chan Joo and Jin Sae both share it, and it focuses on them; the conclusion they come to is “we are hurting.” I love the way it’s filmed, because it parallels so nicely with the filming and framing of the voiceover from episode 14: as they speak the camera pans back and forth between them, but at the end of the sentence, at the word “hurting,” we fall on Ran, sitting alone in the dark in front of a table she’d set up for her and Jin Sae to share. Chan Joo and Jin Sae have recognized that apart they are unhappy, that their separation hasn’t led to the happiness it was supposed to, but Ran is hurting because of Jin Sae’s actions. Chan Joo and Jin Sae’s shared “we are hurting” becomes “I am hurting” when we see Ran because she becomes an outsider; she is singular, isolate.
It’s only in reading over the above quote that I realize that throughout the entire scene Ran isn’t thinking that she and Jin Sae are going to break up: she’s thinking that they are in this together, that they are working towards a shared future. The idea that Jin Sae would leave her and get back together with Chan Joo is nowhere near her mind. For her this is at best something incredibly difficult they have to work through and at worst a perpetual purgatory, the most their relationship can ever be; but she isn’t imagining that Jin Sae has just asked Chan Joo to get back together–that would be too much of a betrayal. And why would she, considering he asked her to live with him, considering that she is doing exactly what he’s asked of her? The questions Ran is asking Jin Sae are things only she is considering. It’s not like with a few minutes prior, when Chan Joo tells Jin Sae that she knows he must be wondering, like her, if they can really ever go back to how they were. Just like when we landed on Ran with the word “hurting,” Ran is very much alone here. She’ll learn later the answer Jin Sae already has but he keeps to himself: “Never.”
Jin Sae: I was with my ex-wife the other night. I went to see her in Chung Joo. Ran-ah, I don’t want to lie to you anymore. I will just tell you everything honestly.
Ran: By any chance, are you uncomfortable because I talked about marriage? Actually, it just came out because I was feeling hurt. We don’t have to have couple rings. It’s not important.
Jin Sae: No it’s not about that. I want to stop deceiving myself and stop hurting your feelings. It’s true that this whole time it’s been hard for you and you’ve been insecure, right?
Ran: Then why are you doing this now? don’t you think it’s hurting me? Ajusshi, why are you doing this? this is not you. Why are you acting like someone I don’t know? Did Ho Ki come to see you? Ho Ki came to tell you about the scout offer from England, didn’t he? If that’s the reason, I won’t go.
Jin Sae: Ran-ah, I can’t be of help to you. (*The same thing Chan Joo says to Myung Jin concerning Jin Sae!)
Ran: No. You are the only one I have.
Jin Sae: No, if I say it more honestly, I can’t rely on you.
Ran: The competition in England means nothing to me. I don’t have to go. That’s all.
Jin Sae: No, it’s not because of that. Whether you go to England or not doesn’t matter. What matters is bwteen you and me. It’s our relationship. In fact, this may sound mean, but I’ll just say it. I…tried to love you. But that was it. I can’t think of you more than that. I can’t help it. Ran, before it’s too late, while we still can, let’s go back. Can you move out?
Ran: Come and have breakfast. I know you like folded egg. I made the dried pollack soup because you drank a lot last night. Is there a place you can go back to? I don’t. I don’t have any place to go back to. I will do better. Give me one more chance. If it’s still not right then, I will move out.
Jin Sae, in his interactions with Ran, is an asshole. He’s awful to her, awful. After confessing to Chan Joo that he still loves her and that he wants to start over, Jin Sae comes back to a house he shares with Ran, someone he refuses to promise anything to, even though he pursued her after she’d left him, even though he’s offered her something that has all the makings of a promise (asking her to move in with him), but isn’t because of his lack of sincerity. What he says here to Ran comes after Chan Joo has told and shown him that she’s leaving with Eun Hyuk. All is lost, as far as he knows, and finally he says and with Ran in a manner that isn’t a reaction to Chan Joo. His telling her this has nothing to do with what Chan Joo has done, only to do with how he feels towards her. It’s hurtful, cruel even, but it’s finally a whole, unqualified truth. Ran, our precious girl, thinks she can do something to change his mind, thinks his not loving her has something to do with her, when it has nothing at all to do with her–which in it self is a heartbreaking thing.
Ever since capitulating to Jin Sae’s plea to move in with him Ran has been conceding parts of herself to him; moving in itself was a concession, especially considering she had just decided to have nothing more to do with him. He doesn’t want to sleep in the same bed? Ok. He lies to her about where he’s been? Ok. He wants to take things very slow? Ok. He doesn’t want couple rings? Ok. When she’d decided to leave Jin Sae she cut her hair. Baduy explains the significance of the act, but it’s something that lasts much longer than in the act of cutting itself; visually it remains compelling, because each time we see Ran alone and crying, each time we see her hurt and rifling through pictures of Jin Sae and Chan Joo’s past, we see her with her shorter hair, with those two inches shorn off. Back in episode 9 Chan Joo asked Eun Hyuk “Why did you come back? No. Why did you leave me? If you hadn’t left me like that, I wouldn’t be this pathetic right now.” That’s what I’m reminded of each time I see Ran’s hair. She’s here because she wants to be, certainly, but she never would have been here if he hadn’t gone after her and begged her to stay with him against her better judgment. Jin Sae, in a way, is to her what Eun Hyuk is to Chan Joo.
The subs say that he tells her: “you’ve been insecure.” The truth is she’s become insecure, as a consequence of wanting a person who doesn’t want her back, but who won’t let her go cleanly so that she can accept that. Jin Sae says he tried to love her as if he’s telling her something revelatory, but Ran has already told him that she never once felt that he loved her; she knows this already. She’s even told Chan Joo that she knows Jin Sae doesn’t love her. The only new information here, perhaps, is that Jin Sae is letting her know that even if Chan Joo left Korea and was out of his life permanently, he would still not love her. In so saying (admitting) he makes all Rans’ confrontations with and pleas to Chan Joo futile. She was pulling Chan Joo into her relationship with Jin Sae, but the problem was never Chan Joo’s presence. Neither is the problem herself. The obstacle in her romance is the very object of her affection.
There’s another inverse in Chan Joo and Ran’s relation to one another, in addition to Jin Sae’s running off to Chan Joo instead of to her, and it has to do with the house the three of them all live in at one point or another. Since the dissolution of her marriage Chan Joo is always packing and unpacking, always in this perpetual state of not being settled, so that she always has the potential to leave. It’s evidence of just how deep the disruption to her domestic life has been. Chan Joo moves from her Seoul home with Jin Sae to an “officetel,” which is smaller than an apartment and is supposed to be used by businesses for their employees—but it can be used by folks who just don’t have enough money to rent a regular apartment. It’s like a studio apartment. Ran, meanwhile, has stopped her itinerant existence to live with Jin Sae in Chan Joo’s former home. She explained to Jin Sae, back in episode 14, that she hasn’t had a place of her own since her parents died. She’s keenly aware that this is the house Chan Joo used to live in, but, just as she works on making Jin Sae “hers,” she’s working on making the house “hers” as well. Hence her and Jin Sae going shopping for plates and sheets, her cooking meals for Jin Sae, her populating the apartment with her stuffed animals. (Look at Chan Joo’s officetel in contrast: an open-floor plan, and we never see her in the kitchen cooking.) In asking Ran to live with him Jin Sae moves the relationship to another level: for Ran it’s not only about being with him anymore, not just about Jin Sae’s company and love; it’s about having a place to belong, stability, which she hasn’t had since the day her parents died—since the day Jin Sae made that promise to her, the promise he broke which he has been trying to rectify since meeting her again. Ran is already scared, and if she loses Jin Sae, she loses these newly acquired things, too, which augments her fear.
Ajusshi, you are the worst thing that has happened in her life. – Ho Ki
What Ho Ki syays to Jin sae is true. This relationship is destroying her. It’s changing her in ways that make her unrecognizable to herself. In her confrontation with Ho Ki, as she’s speaking to him, she realizes she’s lying to him and to herself, and she realizes that she doesn’t want what she’s saying; she realizes she’s losing herself, losing everything in this vortex of her unreciprocated feelings for Jin Sae. She has no one around her–Ho Ki is too invested in a romance with her–to unburden herself. With Jin Sae in her life she is not that teasing, happy girl we met in the first episode: she’s despondent, distracted, and always hurting.
Back in 13 I wrote about how Jin Sae is experiencing some similar things to Chan Joo in her relationship with him. I wonder if he understands a little bit of how she may feel, that she made a mistake in accepting to marry him? That she fucked up his life? Is that how he feels toward Ran now?
When he has nothing left to say to her, he just walks away.
On Chan Joo and Jin Sae: Scene Analysis
I want to dissect every millisecond of this scene, take hundreds of screencaps and line them up one the other, make a huge gifset that I can just stare at for minutes at a time; it’s that good. The body language here is so expressive, and so much of the meaning of the scene comes from negative space—from what’s not said, from the touches that don’t happen. Watching Jin Sae and Chan Joo at this dinner I feel intensely protective of them both; each displays a vulnerability that’s just captivating.
Chan Joo and her friends are at a restaurant in a little get-together as a send off for her imminent departure. The atmosphere is light and playful, with just an undercurrent of tension brought in by Myung Jin, who’s always concerned for her friend and always tries to maintain an impression of propriety, an attitude that’s conspicuously not shared by Ja Young, who’s her usual irreverent self. Just as the girls are about to share a toast Han Soo comes into the frame from the left, bringing Jin Sae with him. He’s literally pulling Jin Sae by the arm, and Jin Sae is following behind, a little reluctant. Ja Young is sitting next to Chan Joo, but when she sees the two men she immediately gets up and moves over one seat, urging Jin Sae to take hers. Everyone else sits down quickly, but he’s the last to sit, lowering himself into the chair cautiously, gingerly, keeping his bag on his lap, aware of Chan Joo and looking to her the entire time. Myung Jin orders two more beers to break the sudden silence that falls on the table, but Chan Joo has totally shut down and she keeps her face down, staring at her hands in her lap. It’s painfully obvious that the three of them orchestrated this so that Chan Joo and Jin Sae could see each other. When the beers come, Ja Young is the one who takes Jin Sae’s and places it in front of him.Myung Jin proposes another toast, and everyone raises their glasses and knocks them together except for Chan Joo and Jin Sae: Jin Sae raises his and makes as if to clink it with Chan Joos, but she barely touches her glass, and for the slightest moment after everyone else has finished the toast we see their glasses next to each other, Jin Sae’s hovering, not touching, waiting to see if Chan Joo will toast with him, until he moves his away.
Ja Young asks Chan Joo when her flight is, which makes everything more awkward, because she’s rather artlessly asking Chan Joo information about her plans that she doesn’t want Jin Sae to know. She doesn’t answer; Myung Jin answers instead; Jin Sae recognizes what’s happening–that chan Joo doesn’t want him to know–and at the mention of when she’s leaving (him), looks away from Chan Joo–finally–at his lap. Jin Sae has not said one thing so far; he’s kept glancing over at her, gauging her reaction, trying to determine if it’s alright for him to be there, trying to see if she’s made any decision in response to the confession he made the other night. They are so unsure of how to act around one another; it’s a huge change from the teasing, playful couple they had been. And then Chan Joo gets up with an excuse of visiting the restroom
and her skirt brushes his arm and I almost faint as my fangirl heart tries to catapult itself out of my chest.
After Chan Joo has left Myung Jin and co all urge Jin Sae to go after her, and stares dumbfounded, as if he hasn’t been aware of the reason he’s here, as if he doesn’t actually understand that they’ve concocted this scenario for his sake, so that he may take another chance at telling Chan Joo how he feels. Chan Joo, meanwhile, has not gone to the restroom: she’s called Eun Hyuk; in response to her friends’ little ruse she’s staging one of her own. After speaking to Eun Hyuk she lets out a heavy sigh, like someone who’s very tired, but still has a lot before her. When she meets Jin Sae he speaks for the first time all night: “Are you all ready?” Chan Joo answers, “Yes, well…” and looks away from him. “For how long are you going to stay?” Chan Joo doesn’t answer and keeps her face averted. “I still feel the same way. I wanted to let you know again. I will wait, Chan Joo.” He’s looking at her the entire time, and here, right when he’s declaring his devotion and loyalty to her, she stops him and tells him she’s leaving with Eun Hyuk. She’s smiling, she’s enacting the same scene they played twice before, when they parted amiably: when he gave her her mail in episode 11 and when she gives him her father’s toolbox in episode 12. She wishes him luck with Ran and stops him when he (feebly) protests, telling him he should wish her luck with Eun Hyuk. But Jin Sae has changed since those two goodbyes. He doesn’t think he can move on from her anymore, doesn’t want to try for something with Ran anymore. He’s not insistent, he respects Chan Joo’s decision, but he cannot make a fascimile of mutual well wishes for her. He’s so sweet here, and it breaks my heart to know he’s saying these things that make me love him all while Ran is falling apart because of this very reason.
When Chan Joo turns from him to walk back to the table the smile falls from her face, but at the table she blows out the candle on her cake with the smile back on. She’s different from before she’d left for the restroom. She initiates a toast this time, and Jin Sae doesn’t even try to toast with her. When Eun Hyuk comes, Jin Sae is the last one to see that he’s arrived, and Myung Jin and co are all shocked and perturbed, except Chan Joo, who offers a light farewell. As she grabs her bag she and Jin Sae share a look: she isn’t smiling. She and Eun Hyuk don’t embrace or greet each other; Myung Jin watches Jin Sae watching them leave; after they’ve left he looks back again as the others remain silent. He hasn’t said a word since coming back to the table. Once in Eun Hyuk’s car, Chan Joo’s demeanor is more even subdued: she’s unsmiling, untalkative, and unwilling to put up with Eun Hyuk’s persuasions. She answers him in barely audible monosyllables, and after she gets out of his car we see her walking away, and then we transition to Jin Sae, who’s drinking alone in a nondescript place.
Since the divorce we see Jin Sae in variations on a theme: alone, drinking, despondent. We see him right after the divorce, when he spends days alone in his apartment, not eating and letting filth pile up around him; there are the times we see him drinking alone in his apartment when Ran is in the bedroom, or in front of the convenience store; there was the time right after Chan Joo’s scandal resurfaced and he went drinking with Han Soo; and now we have him drinking and crying alone. He doesn’t go to his usual place in front of the convenience store this time, he goes to a new place with no lights and no passerby. There’s no chance Ran may find him here. After seeing Chan Joo leave with Eun Hyuk, again, it seems to Jin Sae that he and Chan Joo will never reunite, and he is miserable. He misses her, plain and simple, and it looks like he’ll spend a long time missing her.
- I like that Chan Joo refers to how hard it is to display any unhappy emotions after you’ve been depressed and tried to commit suicide; folks always assume the worst–which is totally understandable, but tiring nonetheless. I do wish that she’d stayed at her father’s and had gone back to Seoul on her own; she was there for her own peace of mind, and she hadn’t gotten it yet with Jin Sae there.
- “When something happens to her you are out the door to be with her.” What a cruel irony–that Jin Sae is doing to her now what he was doing with her before; now she’s the one he’s leaving, not the one he’s running to.
- Chan Joo tells Myung Jin that she’s leaving to go abroad by herself and Myung Jin is worried. I wonder why? It’s not the idea of Chan Joo going abroad that is the problem, but the idea of her leaving on her own. Is this simply another manifestation of the effects of Chan Joo’s past depression and suicide attempt? It may be, but I can’t help but think of what I wrote last episode about Chan Joo and freedom. What does it mean that Myung Jin doesn’t mind who she goes abroad with, as long as she’s not going alone?
- Now Chan Joo is the one who is always “running away” from Jin Sae, which is what she’d told him to do to her.
- Ugh, Ho Ki, why are you always so wrong? Ran didn’t degrade herself. Loving someone isn’t degrading, even when that person doesn’t love you back. Her love may not ennoble her, but it certainly doesn’t make her any less of a person.
- Jin Sae is a very internal character. We always see him sitting and thinking, but he doesn’t go around saying everything he feels and thinks except during moments of confrontation (which he usually backs away from). The only person he doesn’t back away from is Chan Joo. He always tells her they should go through with whatever they have to say. But when others go to him, whether it be Ho Ki or Ran, he backs away and says, “Another time.”
- This drama doesn’t start ringing false until this episode, and it limits itself to the developments between In Kyung and Eun Hyuk. While I’m willing to believe that In Kyung would realize Eun Hyuk’s desperation through his being more willing to go to jail than stay with her, I’m surprised that she isn’t bitter about it. And I can’t help but wonder how someone who takes such good care of herself could allow her diabetes to deteriorate to the point that she needs a new kidney. Diabetes is very manageable, and in fact one of the things the show does is inaccurate: each time In Kyung is emotionally overwhelmed it shows her fainting or injecting herself with insulin. Diabetes has nothing to do with your emotions: it has to do with sugar intake, and as long as you eat right and exercise, you won’t be fainting all over the place. I would have liked to seen a bitterness remain between them, to see Eun Hyuk have his freedom and have to figure out what to do with it without Chan Joo in it.
Chan Joo: What is this about?
Ran: Well, I am leaving.
Chan Joo: What did you say?
Ran: From now on, Ajumma, you have to be happy with him. I’ve decided not to love him anymore. When I first saw him, I thought my late parents sent him to me. I thought they didn’t want me to be lonely. I thought they’d sent me someone I could rely on. But you were always on his mind. Even when he was with me, he was always living in the past with you. That could’ve been why I wanted him more. I was confident that I could make him mine. No. Actually, I was scared of being alone again. But I don’t think this way anymore. Ajusshi, please don’t leave him alone. …Then, goodbye. For real this time.
Ran: Thank you. Sorry to bother you when you are busy. I came to say goodbye. I think I want to stop. This is not the love I wanted. Making it hard for the other person…that can’t be love. I might have not known about love yet. I’ve failed this time, but if I get another chance to love again, I will definitely succeed then.
Jin Sae: I also wish you happiness. I’m grateful for what you’ve done for me. And I’m sorry–
Ran: I don’t like you anymore. I mean, I’ve decided not to like you anymore. If we continue this way, I’m afraid I might start to dislike you more than I like you. Before that happens, I want to move away from you.
Jin Sae: Ran-ah–
Ran: Please don’t say anything. If you do, I might try to hold onto you again. So go back to your ex-wife and live a happy life. Wow, am I cool or what? I’ll be going. Oh, I went to see your ex-wife and told her I was sorry. After all, I’m not someone who’s rude with no conscience, right? Ajusshi. I really appreciate what you’ve done for me. And…go see your ex-wife. Well then, goodbye.
This drama has two heroines, Chan Joo and Ran. Ran shines too brightly, is too brave, loves too hard and holds her back too straight for her not to be a heroine right alongside Chan Joo. What an achievement, to have two women so different from one another, with such differing approaches to the world, and have them both be heroines in a story. I love and love and love Ran, and I love and love and love Chan Joo.
Here is the sequence of Ran’s actions in this episode:
- She looks through pictures of Jin Sae and Chan Joo’s wedding while recalling Jin Sae saying he could never love her: this is what she will never have with him. It’s a past she cannot compete with, and so she makes the decision to save herself. She packs her things and leaves a note for Jin Sae.
- She goes to Chan Joo’s offictel, tells her that she’s leaving and that she’s decided not to love Jin Sae anymore.
- She heads to the dance studio, romantically defeated and shamefaced, and asks Ho Ki if she can still be his partner; she promises to work hard and not stand in his way.
- She calls Jin Sae and meets him one last time; she tells him she’s decided to let him go, and that he should go back to Chan Joo.
After her conversation with Chan Joo Ran bows to her. It’s something she’s never done before. Each time the two have met it has been in an atmosphere of rivalry, but here they meet under different conditions. Right now, at this exact moment, neither of them is claiming Jin Sae as theirs. Both of them love him, both of them want him by their side, but neither is fighting the other over him. Ran comes to Chan Joo’s officetel in surrender, in a way, but it isn’t quite that because she’s not admitting defeat so much as she is deciding to change what she wants. She’s decided that she can shape her own life, and it’s the same tenacity she showed when she’s said she would make Jin Sae hers and erase Chan Joo from his life.
What’s in the bow she gives Chan Joo? What does it mean? I think it works against what she’d told Jin Sae about Chan Joo last episode, how she often found herself wishing she would just disappear. For Jin Sae, who knows about Chan Joo’s past suicide attempt and who’s hopelessly in love with her, this is an awful thing to hear, and he lets Ran know it. But it’s an awful thing for Ran to feel. She says it makes her feel terrible, like a loser. It’s just one of the many terrible things her relationship with Jin Sae has done to her. In that bow Ran is challenging those feelings she had. She’s deliberately saying “No. I won’t think this way anymore, and I won’t feel this way anymore.” She won’t think in a spirit of rivalry towards Chan Joo anymore, and she won’t feel like shit about constantly having to be in competition with a woman she barely knows, when all she wants is to be happy with Jin Sae. I’m not one who subscribes to the notion that you can aways control how you feel, and I’ve always had issues with that famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote, but there’s something to be said for taking control of your own life, for taking responsibility for your own emotions. It’s depicted so well here, because although Ran has made an active decision to change how she feels and what she wants, we still see her struggling. And then, as Ran walks away, Chan Joo stands up to watch her leave. It’s a reciprocation of Ran’s bow, a recognition of the courage (which Chan Joo has always seen in Ran) it took for Ran to come here and say this to her. In each time they’d met before, one of them waked away from the other. This, their final meeting, is the only time they each acknowledge the other as something other than a rival, as equals, in some sense, who have a respect for one another.
The change in Ran and Jin Sae’s relationship is shown to us visually: first we see him pushing her bag across the table to her. Only after he’s let it go does she pick it up. She’s cautious with him now. She’s still bracingly honest, but she doesn’t flirt with him, and her warmth is guarded. In their conversation you can tell that she’s protecting herself, and that she wants to make clear that she has a say in the ending of the relationship, that she didn’t just move in and move out, come and go, at his whim.
What I love about Ran in these exchanges is how they center on her choice. “I’ve decided not to like you anymore.” Those words are so powerful. She is still hurting, and he looks like this is something she’s rehearsed, something she’s practiced in the mirror. She’s on the brink of tears, you can see her holding them back, but she still makes a choice to be something other than someone Jin Sae wasn’t able to love. Ran’s courage lies in the long pause between “I don’t like you anymore,” and “I’ve decided not to like you anymore,” in the difference between the two. Jin Sae knows she still loves him and that this is breaking her heart, and after she gets up to leave both of them look like they’re holding back tears, but it’s done. They are finally done with one another, free of the relationship that brought them both so much grief.
I feel strange about Ran telling Chan Joo to go back to Jin Sae. I can understand her telling Jin Sae to return to Chan Joo, because she knows that is part of the reason why can’t love her. But it’s a little presumptuous of her to do the same with Chan Joo. What if she doesn’t want to be with him? This is, after all, a woman she doesn’t know, and yet somehow she knows where she lives…which is just weird. I wonder if she encourages them both to reunite because she’s taken Ho Ki’s words to heart? Perhaps when she was looking at those pictures she saw how happy Jin Sae looked and compared it to how he is now, always unsmiling, always drinking alone, and felt that what Ho Ki said was true, that she was the one who broke up their marriage. It’s only partially true, though. She may have strained their marriage, but their problems arose from something outside of her involvement. It’s actually pretty sad; their breaking up and their getting back together is only minimally touched by her; she really doesn’t have much of a say, even with her letting Jin Sae go and telling them both to reunite. But perhaps her urging them to reunite has more to do with her own sense of integrity than it has to do with them.
On Seo Chan Joo
When I got the airline tickets from you I did a lot of thinking about the future I would spend with you. But I couldn’t picture anything. All I could see was him and me riding our bikes together to work, drinking beer in the small balcony, having my husband in a headlock when he was being naughty, arguing over trivial stuff. It was all about how I was with him, the past three years we lived as a couple after we got married.
I have to trace Chan Joo’s actions to make sense of what she does in this episode. Chan Joo doesn’t go to the airport. She goes to see In Kyung. Jin Sae is already at the airport and Eun Hyuk is on his way there. She doesn’t seem like someone who has a flight to catch. When In Kyung asks her if she’s leaving with Eun Hyuk she looks guilty, but I can’t pin down what for. It could be because she’s is planning on leaving with him, but it may also be because she isn’t, and she still hasn’t told him. After leaving In Kyung she goes to the house she used to share with Jin Sae and recalls happy moments from their marriage. At first it seems as though she’s saying her last goodbyes, but when I consider that she’s missing her flight to do this, when I consider that she’s come back to this house when she should be on her way to another country, I realize that what she’s doing is stalling. She doesn’t want to say goodbye. And yet when she sees Jin Sae’s car, she runs away. What does it mean that when she sees that house what she remembers is the good times from their marriage? That she loved (loves?) Jin Sae? That she was happy when she was with him? That that happiness is worth trying to find again?
Chan Joo actually has two flights, two chances to leave Seoul and Jin Sae. The first is at 9 am, the one Jin Sae knows about because of Myung Jin and Ja Young’s exchange at her going away party; this one is to Sydney, and she would have taken it herself. The second one is an 11 am flight to New York, and Eun Hyuk was the one who gave her the ticket for it. She misses both flights. Instead, after seeing In Kyung and running away from Jin Sae, she returns to her officetel, where Ran is waiting for her.
Chan Joo displays an ambivalence in her actions here that we usually see in Jin Sae. Just after Jin Sae has finally made a firm decision, she starts to waver in hers. I don’t think it’s till that very morning that she decides not to go abroad, and she doesn’t make the decision by refusing to leave, but by deferring action with other things until she can no longer take action, because she no longer has the choice to take those two flights.
On Chan Joo and Jin Sae
The scenes that link Chan Joo and Jin Sae together before they actually are together are the little ones in between their exchanges with Ran and Myung Jin’s frustration with them. First we see Jin sae home alone, drinking in the dark, in the little alcove where he and Chan Joo had celebrated their third anniversary. That was the first night where they both lied to each other and left to go be with Ran and Eun Hyuk. The second scene is of Chan Joo at her officetel, drinking alone at her table, crushing her beer cans and throwing them at the trash bin a few feet away. This is a reenactment of the scene of their anniversary. Both are apart, alone, missing each other, and reliving the night of their initial betrayal, when they were still happy and blissfully unaware of any possibility of infidelity. Chan Joo and Jin Sae are already at the same place, but they remain physically separate.
When Myung Jin and co ditch Chan Joo and Jin Sae (hilariously leaving her purse on the road; pffft, what awful friends) it’s the first time they’ve seen each other in weeks, They have been living separately, but happily. They stand there awkwardly, feet apart as trucks pas them by. Chan Joo picks up her purse and begins to walk away. Jin Sae takes two steps after her and the camera moves with them to keep them both in the same frame. He calls out, “Chan Joo-ah!” but she keeps walking, widening the space between them. This widening, her walking away, is a continuance of what she has been doing since episode 9, when they had their biggest fight and she walked away from him twice, first after their disastrous confrontation, and then after she hands him the divorce papers.
Then he calls her his pet name for her, “Miss Seo!” It’s the same name he used when they were married, the same name that echoes in both their reminiscences. By using that name he’s saying, “We can go back to the past; we can be happy together, as we once were.” He’s replying to the question she asked him back in episode 14, if they could ever really be as they once were. Here he says that they can, that the place of their nostalgia isn’t gone to them forever. Chan Joo stops. She turns around.
Jin Sae says, “Come with me.” It’s calling back to the moment in episode 11 when Chan Joo told Jin Sae she would go with Eun Hyuk, and drove off to her father’s funeral in his car. Then, as Baduy explains, she’d meant more than that she was driving there with him, but that she would be with eun Hyuk from then on, that she’d chosen him. Here Jin Sae does the same, saying they should drive to the vacation spot together, and that they should be lovers once again.
In just three sentences they cover and recall their entire separation from episode 9 on. So when Jin Sae opens his arms wide to Chan Joo, and when Chan Joo turns and runs into them, and they hug, she closes the distance between them literally and metaphorically. She closes the gap before on the road, but she also closes the gap that formed after their fight in episode 9, after they got a divorce. When they hug, they are finally physically together, in the same place. It’s a really gracefully done scene, and in combination with the scenes of them drinking that recall the first episode, expertly bring their romance to a resolution without ever addressing the problems they faced through exposition.
One year later (Hans Soo tells Myung Jin, “We’ve been living together for more than a year now”), they stand in front of the picture they took together that is displayed publicly in their neighborhood, and they talk about their past and their future, which is exactly what the episode itself did in metaphorically linking their current actions to their past actions and their desires for their future.
- The other time we saw Jin Sae open his arms to Chan Joo for a hug was in episode 3 after her birthday party, when she made him promise to stay with her till they were both old (a he memorized and repeated back to her in episode 8). Their walking down the road to their home also recalls that scene, with their picture hanging in public for all the world to see.
- I think Ran understood love perfectly fine. She just fell for someone who didn’t fall back.
- I love that Ran isn’t made into a villain in this story. When she goes back to the dance studio, defeated and shamefaced, she aks Ho Ki is she can still be his dance partner, and she promises to work hard and to not stand in his way.
- The costume design for this show is so on point. A lot of dramas simply dress their characters in designer clothes, but here the clothes the characters wear actually correspond to who they are. We never see Jin Sae wearing an expensive business suit; Chan Joo wears heels, but she also wears converse high tops; Ran doesn’t dress like a model, but like a typical young woman in Seoul.
I remember back when Malta and I first watched this we spoke about how Chan Joo and Jin Sae reunite without ever addressing the problems they had. They never return to the fight they had in episode 9 where Jin Sae says he wants children. He backtracks in the next episode, telling Chan Joo that as long as he has her he’ll be fine, but something as fundamental to a relationship as deciding how your future family is going to be isn’t something that goes away so easily. They each have kept Ran and Eun Hyuk outside of their relationship, never talking about them with the other, but I would have loved to see Chan Joo telling Jin Sae what her relationship with Eun Hyuk had been like, and why she chose to leave him, and I wold have loved to see them both talking about what they think of Ran. I just…I want more! This show could have had another one or two episodes.
So what does their separation accomplish, if anything? I think there are 2 things to consider: one is that Chan Joo felt she made a mistake in marrying Jin Sae so quickly three years ago, and the other is that she’s uncomfortable with the conditions under which they met and married. Those two things are very closely linked, but they’re distinct. One has to do with fairness and responsibility, the other with freedom and truth, which I explored in my thoughts on episode 13. Their separation addresses those 2 things. Their time spent apart rectifies the speed with which they initially got together: in continually insisting that she keep her presence in Seoul a secret from Jin Sae and in making him think that she is dating Eun Hyuk, Chan Joo is able to distance herself from him, with the goal being that she give him space to really consider his feelings for her, and to come to the conclusion that he really did jump into things too quickly, three years ago. He doesn’t of course. He’s miserable the whole time and just realizes what he’s always known, that he loves her. She encourages him to date Ran not just because Ran is the woman who “shook” him, but because she wants Jin Sae to experience a relationship different from what he had with her, a relationship with someone who doesn’t have the baggage she comes with. The problem is, everyone has baggage, which is what Chan Joo learns when Ran tells her that she thought Jin Sae was sent to her by her parents.
Their time apart also gives Chan Joo the chance to return to the huge rift that occurred in her life three years ago. She returns to the night Eun Hyuk left her, returns to her days of depression afterward, is able to visit them without Jin Sae coming in and falling for her, coming in and ‘saving” her. She is able to discover for herself that if she had the choice between Eun Hyuk (whom she spent 7 years with) and Jin Sae, she would choose Jin Sae; now that Eun Hyuk wants her openly, in the way she wanted him to want her three years ago, she still chooses Jin Sae. There are no obligations or possible feelings of charity or pity tying them to one another now; the only thing that ties them together, the only thing they both keep returning to, is the happiness they had when they were married. And so they are able to freely choose one another, without any restrictive circumstances. Jin Sae doesn’t save her from anything, she isn’t running away from anything, and he chooses her with full knowledge of his other choices.