I can hardly make it through this episode—it makes me so sad, and I keep watching it through my fingers as if it’s some horror film—but I’m gonna write a little about it to make me feel better.
Eun Soo and Tae Oh’s initial relationship was something of an anomaly. No relationships in this show are wonderful and without conflict. Eun Soo’s mother is in a marriage with a cold, abusive, dismissive husband who belittles her and doesn’t acknowledge her emotional life or the work she does. He orders her around, ignores her, treats her like a servant, and makes her feel like a burden because he’s the one who was financially responsible. (Of course he ignores the fact that his ability to go out to work was allowed because he has a partner who stayed home to raise the children and care for the house.) Jane’s relationship is all kinds of fucked up, with her marrying a man who she doesn’t even like, let alone love. They aren’t even married yet and he’s already alienating her and making her feel less than, which brings out her insecurities. And Yoon Hee gets back together with an ex who hurt her so badly that everyone who loves her tells her she should stay away from him and she herself admits that she hates him just as much as she’s drawn to him.
The closest the show comes to having relationships that are loving and stable and trusting is the friendship between the three women. They fight and they hurt each other, they lie and keep secrets, and Yoon Hee and Eun Soo have a tendency to exclude Jane, but they’re always there for each other, and they always apologize.
So I should have known when the first episode was all sweet and fuzzy and full of making out and sex that it wasn’t going to stay that way. What I’ve come to realize is that that night was not Eun Soo acting as she normally would, it was Eun Soo acting completely out of character, but also strangely in character. It was characteristic of her in that she was avoiding the reality of her ex getting married (her cowardice), but it was unusual in that she meets up with Tae Oh and sleeps with him. The show actually begins in medias res, with Eun Soo doing things in response to something that has already happened. So when she sleeps with Tae Oh that first night it isn’t indicative of her real character.
She keeps her relationship with Tae Oh a secret from her friends and family, but she tells them about Yeoung Su right away. Her secrecy is a part of who she is, I think, because she doesn’t like to deal with things directly, she’s rather insular, and she likes to compartmentalize things; but it’s also another function of her fear—she’s worried about how young Tae Oh is, how her friends and family will react, etc. But her keeping it a secret defined the relationship, both for her and for the audience. It kept the relationship away from the rest of her life, in this little bubble where they could live in perfection, even with the fights they had. Note that it starts really falling apart when her friends find out about them.
In fact, the place that they were most comfortable with each other and had the most intimate and lovely times were in Eun Soo’s apartment. It’s interesting because Tae Oh moves in without Eun Soo’s permission, calls it “our home” when it’s actually hers, memorizes her key combination and says he can come in whenever he pleases, and Eun Soo accepts all this with no complaint. And Tae Oh moves in after he and Eun Soo have a fight and she calls him, frightened and alone, because she hears a scream from the apartment upstairs. Turns out the woman living directly above her was strangled to death by someone she knew (we get the idea it might have been a lover). Eun Soo’s personal space is threatened and she feels unsafe in it, and Tae Oh moves in “until she feels safe” without her permission. Jane finds out about Tae Oh when she comes to Eun Soo’s apartment unexpectedly, sending Eun Soo into a panic where she shushes Tae Oh into the bathroom to hide. This happens right after Tae Oh gets Eun Soo to help him clean her apartment, which she’s notorious for leaving messy. So immediately after she cleans her messy apartment, this personal space (that has become home to her romantic fantasy), things start to go to shit.
So they have this relationship that exists separately from the rest of her life. And here in episode 9 she’s walking next to Tae Oh, then stops and watches as he continues, and wonders at his back what happened to the time they had together. It’s always awful when you have that moment of recognition of change, that instance when you realize that something is no longer as wonderful as it had been. Eun Soo realizes that something irreparable has been done to their relationship, and there’s a tear they just can’t sow up. But when Tae Oh realizes she’s not next to him and he turns to look at her inquisitively, she smiles at him as if nothing’s wrong, and runs to catch up. She’s still going to give the relationship a try, even though they only take walks and have coffee together. The next time we see them the’re sitting across from each other at a coffee shop, awkward and unsure of what to say to each other. Finally Tae Oh’s phone rings, and the director says he’s needed on set. Tae Oh tells Eun Soo that he doesn’t need to leave right away, but she tells him it’s ok, they should just leave. The old Tae Oh would have made a comment about how he doesn’t want to, about how he already misses her, but not this time. It’s the blotch reality always leaves on fantasy.
Their relationship at this point mirrors Yoon Hee’s relationship Chan Seok, her ex-turned-lover-again. They, too, both realize that their relationship is different. Their walking on eggshells around each other, being overly kind and deferential, totally different from their naturally blunt personalities.
But there’s a difference between the two relationships. This aspect of Eun Soo and Tae Oh’s romance, of them trying to be happy together, of them working so eagerly (and ultimately tragically) to make it work, even though it isn’t working and they both kind of know that it most likely won’t, isn’t something new to their relationship. They’ve always made sacrifices for each other (Tae Oh more overtly), and not the I’m-doing-this-to support-you kind, but the kind that is used to avoid confrontation.
So it’s even worse than realizing that a relationship has changed for the worse, that it can never be as good as it once was. It’s that it never was that great to begin with. And that’s just heartbreaking.
I see all this now, and yet I still adore all the time these two spent together, and I’m glad that they did. I understand their differences, I see how they never really understood each other (Eun Soo never trusted Tae Oh and never felt comfortable that the person she loved was younger than her and made less money; Tae Oh didn’t respect her boundaries and pushed too hard and too much without really considering Eun Soo’s fears) but it still hurts to see them break up. They never could have had it all, but I still want(ed) them to.
Sigh. I don’t know. I’m gonna have to go back and watch this from the beginning because this show is throwing me down a curb I did not know was coming.