“San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” from Episode 3
Nice Guy has reached a turning point with episodes 7 and 8, a crossroads in the the lives of our characters. All the secrets come out, our characters make significant progressions in their relationships, they confront one another, and the consequences of past actions reach a boiling point. This all points to our story entering a second phase, and I’m anticipating some dramatic changes. It’s time, then, to visit Nice Guy’s flaws before moving on to look more closely at it’s themes.
On Flashbacks, Jae Gil, and Choco
On it’s own episode 7 is the weakest we have so far, with some very strong scenes that stand out in our minds, but which are languishing in a mire of revelations that don’t actually reveal much to us, the audience, because we’ve been aware of them since the beginning of the story. When it’s paired with 6 and 8, however, their narrative arch becomes one of the best Lee Kyung Hee has offered us–but I’ll get to that later on. We get more flashbacks in episode 7 than in any of the other episodes, only instead of adding more to events we’ve already seen, thereby altering their intention and significance, we’re simply experiencing those same events over again through Eun Ki’s perspective. We’re witnessing Eun Ki revisiting her past interactions with Ma Ru, but it isn’t a transformative experience for us because we have already been through what Eun Ki is going through. Because of our omniscient perspective we’ve been able to agonize over the hypocrisy and cruelty of Ma Ru’s actions, and I feel like it would have been a better choice to allow the camera to rest on Eun Ki’s profile, to let us see the devastation etched across her face as she speaks to Ma Ru. Moon Chae Won is a strong enough actress to have pulled that off. That way instead of the focus being on how Ma Ru has been lying to Eun Ki, which is something we all know, the focus would have been on the effect it has on Eun Ki, which is what we hadn’t seen yet. For example, this is exactly what they do when Ma Ru tells Eun Ki he’s going to meet someone, and the way she looks at him we just know that she’s wondering if he’s going to meet with Jae Hee. Her finding out the truth is an incredible moment of turmoil for her, and this fall out is where the story is, but by giving us so many unnecessary flashbacks we were instead given the set up all over again. (Note that when Ma Ru finally cuts things off with Jae Hee we get flashbacks to scene we’ve never witnessed before, not to things we’ve already seen.)
The most glaring problem, though, is the scenes with Jae Gil and Choco. They’re tonally jarring and they barely fit into the narrative. It doesn’t help that Moon Chae Won, Song Joong Ki, and Park Shi Yeon have so much gravitas and handle their characters so deftly and with such discernment that you can almost imagine your screen begging for them to come back on whenever the story moves away from them. I feel like if Lee Gwang Soo were actually given a chance he could be much more effective, much more than the bumbling best friend who makes us laugh at his expense, which is really just an extrapolation of his Running Manimage. Like why isn’t Jae Gil more aggressive in his attempts to keep Ma Ru from getting revenge? Jae Gil is so morally upright, he’d be sure to counsel Ma Ru well. Some fabulous folks have already pointed out how Jae Gil has done the opposite of Jae Hee, giving up his socioeconomic position because the things his father does are disgusting. The narrative could expound on this and draw parallels between Jae Hee’s rise and his fall, and how each made decisions to get to the place they are and how that reflects on their characters and their positions in Ma Ru’s life. It’s wonderful if Jae Gil’s scenes are comedic, but that no reason for them not to be substantive. Also, if Eun ki “leaves her throne” to be with Ma Ru, she’ll be going on the same journey that Jae Gil has gone, which is a great avenue to explore.
I’d like to see the same treatment for Choco. We got some interesting revelations about her past (how her father cared more for Ma Ru than for her–which means that she’s been emotionally abandoned by both her parents–and how that caused Ma Ru to start taking care of her) but I want to know why she’s so childish. I’m really surprised that she’s actually in her twenties. I want more parallels to be established between her and Eun Ki. And I don’t want the parallels to drag Eun Ki down to her levels of victimization and infantilization, I want them to pull her up to Eun Ki’s level of bravery and kick-assery. For example, how do/will she and Eun Ki interact? How does Choco feel about another serious romantic interest entering Ma Ru’s life? How will Eun ki, Choco, Jae Gil and Ma Ru function as a family unit, and how will this contrast with how they functioned when Jae Hee was there? we’ve already seen that both eun ki and ma ru have messed up families, and in ep. 7 eun ki specifically said she wanted to raise a family with ma ru, so how does choco fit into that?And I really want a scene between Choco and Jae Hee. These two have some things to talk about. I mean, her brother chose another person over her, and that person was Jae Hee.
Eun Ki: Don’t you dare touch him. Don’t you dare touch a single hair on his head.
Ma Ru: …If you’ve been locked away in prison for eight years and are now just seeing the sun, then it would be best for you to stay quiet with your mouth shut. This is not advice, but more of a warning. – Episode 7
While Eun Ki is making a threat to protect Ma Ru, Ma Ru is making a threat to protect Jae Hee. Meanwhile Jae Hee is planning on having Ma Ru beaten by a couple of thugs. I love the way the two scenes are intercut with each other, because it’s such a perfect encapsulation of the workings of their relationship so far. It’s structurally brilliant because it’s the very last moment we have of Ma Ru protecting Jae Hee, paired with one of the first moments of Eun Ki defending him. While one relationship is coming to a devastating end, the other is being built up. I also love this because it shows how willful Eun Ki is, how she wants to take care of this herself with no help from Lawyer Park and no involvement from her father. It’s a holdover from her initial characterization in the first two episodes, and it gives me hope that the concerns I have about her being made pitiful in order for Ma Ru to be willing to love her won’t come true. This is also a great example of the point I made in the last meta-by-numbers, about how Ma Ru expreses his love for someone by protecting them. Here he’s still very much interested in Jae Hee’s well being, and seeing him being so concerned about her while Eun Ki is so invested in his welfare makes his deceptions all the more upsetting. His going to such lengths to protect Jae Hee (actively taking on the label of a murderer while reifying that perception of him by saying he’d be more than willing to murder again; I mean, we’re shown a woman being shocked and frightened of him because Jae Shik refers to his murder sentence, which emphasizes just how cruelly that label constrains him, and then he wholly accepts those contraints, all for Jae Hee) only to have Jae Hee wrongfully ascribe actions to him for which she brutally punishes him is an excellent display of the dysfunctions of that relationship.
Seo Eun Ki who seems to have everything, Seo Eun Ki who couldn’t be envious of anything. Truthfully, she is living her pathetic life like that. But… but, because of a man named Kang Ma Ru living felt wondrous for the very first time. So I really gave it a lot of thought, to the point that I felt my head would explode. I thought that even if I lose everything I have, I shouldn’t forget this man. I decided that five hours ago. – Eun Ki, ep. 8
Eun Ki is so courageous and just so freakin’ magnificent in her willingness to bare herself in order to go after what she wants. It’s not that she’s fearless; in the scene she’s crying and trembling and you can tell that she knows rejection is a possibility. She’s afraid that Ma Ru won’t want her, that the “ulterior motives” Lawyer Park referred to might really be all there was to their relationship, and that everything she felt and still feels may be nothing more than calculated functions of Ma Ru’s plans against Jae Hee. If that’s the case then both her romantic and her profesional lives have been taken over by her step mother. What strikes me is that we’ve never seen Ma Ru be so scared in any confession he’es given Jae Hee. During his first confession he just casually suggests she should date him and she’s ecstatic at the opportunity. In the second, the love letter he writes her, he promises to be with her forever, but there isn’t the kind of acknowledgement of reciprocation that there is in Eun Ki’s. Eun Ki goes on to paint the kind of life she’d like to live with Ma Ru, and I don’t know if Ma Ru ever did that with Jae Hee.
Another thing I noticed was that here Eun Ki actually says Ma Ru’s name. She doesn’t call him either of the nicknames she has for him, “ajusshi” or “good looking face.” She makes it clear (to us, at least) that she’s addressing him as he is, beat up face, prison sentence, past relationship with Jae Hee and all; she wants and loves all of him. What makes the confession even better is that she tells us and Ma Ru that this isn’t some whim she’s having. She negates what she’d said when they were breaking up, that being in love with him was an emotion that just washed over her. Here she’s explicit when she says she decided to love him. It’s something she weighed and considered and came to a conclusion about. It reminds me of two things: when Ma Ru told her not to worry about thanking him because he’d made the decision to get her doll on his own, and when Kim Nana from City Hunter told Lee Yoon Sung not to bother trying to make her jealous because her feelings were her own. In all instances there’s an ownership of one’s feelings and actions that’s rarely acknowledged in romantic narratives (usually it’s something along the lines of “I can’t help but to love this person, even though it’s not something I want”) that’s refreshing. It showcases Eun Ki’s agency, and I love it because everyone else in the drama thinks she’s insane for choosing not to condemn Ma Ru (I’m looking at you Lawyer Park), and tries to delegitimize her feelings by painting them as coming from someone who doesn’t have the authority to have them, but she knows her feelings are valid, and so do we.
A typhoon that rages for a short time loosen’s a tree’s branches and maybe will be stripped of all it’s leaves. but when next Spring comes, don’t you think new branches will sprout from the tree and leaves will grow on them again. – Jae Hee, ep. 8
There’s a duality to this quote that I think reflects Jae Hee’s duality. On one hand it’s inspirational because it’s saying that no matter how strong the difficulties you face you can overcome them. On the other hand it’s a very cynical world view because it means no matter how hard you fight against a giant, the giant will win. And in this case the giant is Taesan Group, a corporation that amasses it’s power illegally and immorally, according to this whistleblower’s accusations. I think it speaks to how Jae Hee can do so many horrible things and still remain a sympathetic character. She been on both sides of that quote, both the tree weathering the storm and the storm raging against the giant.
I decided to come with someone here in the past, but in the end we couldn’t come. – Ma Ru, ep. 8
“We couldn’t come.” That’s such a perfect way to describe Ma Ru and Jae Hee’s relationship, which is ultimately an impotent one. They never came to the beach together, they never went on that cruise to see the end of the world–they never created the life that Ma Ru had in his head. When Jae Hee and Ma Ru were on the bridge in Japan, we are never once shown the horizon. All we see is that massive ship that blocks our view. But with Eun Ki and Ma Ru we see the horizon here, and we’re shown them overlooking Seoul. It’s like we’re visually being told that the have a future, somewhere to head towards, while Jae Hee and Ma Ru never did. I think it’s another way of telling us that Ma Ru and Jae Hee had different dreams while Eun Ki and Ma Ru want the same things for their futures.
On Eun Ki and Love
I know the amnesia plot is about to kick in, and it makes me want to take a closer look at Eun Ki, because I love this Eun Ki, and I’m going to miss her. I want so much for her to retain her characteristics from the first couple episodes, but she’s been shedding more and more of herself in her journey towards romanic love, and I’m afraid the amnesia will have her lose herself completely. I want to gather some of her traits here so I can look back at it when I’m wondering where the ballsy Eun Ki went.
Eun Ki has certain ways in which she reacts to bad news or things she’s trying to understand: she goes through a process of repetition, like when she wrote Ma Ru’s name over and over again when she didn’t understand her feelings toward him, or when she did the same with Jae Hee’s name when she was trying to save Aomori, or how she kept on putting more and more sugar in her coffee when she was faced with the news that Ma Ru is a felon who used to date Jae Hee. She’s obstinate; once she makes a decision no one can deter her from it: she refuses help from Lawyer Park, willingly leaves from her father (twice), drinks herself into oblivion in order to get back into Taesan, refuses to give up on Aomori or on Ma Ru, and routinely disregards her health in her efforts to attain her goals. She develops a relationship with her mother after she died and looks to her for guidance even though when she was alive she rejected her. She’s consciously decided to follow her mother’s path and reject her father’s.
There’s something going on in the narrative having to do with romance and illness, with physicality and weakness and love. The first time Eun Ki and Ma Ru meet she almost dies. Both times Eun Ki confesses her love for him Eun Ki has to be cared for afterwards. After breaking up with him she collapses. It’s almost as if Eun Ki is too frail for love? Maybe this is supposed to communicate Eun Ki’s inner vulnerability, the thing she’s always trying to hide, but it’s a very fine line to walk because it can easily lead to making her a damsel in distress who constantly needs to be saved. There’s a constant link between her and insanity. She tells Ma Ru she’s gone crazy over him, Lawyer Park tells the chairman she seems to have lost her mind, Jae Hee tells a room of people she’s unbalanced and needs medication. Her father locks her in her room–the way they lock people in asylums. (And there’s that moment when Ma Ru tells Jae Hee that he loved her like an insane person.) It’s like Eun Ki isn’t only fighting against Jae Hee and her father, but everyone, even herself sometimes. She’s constantly being misread by people, like with how Lawyer Ahn thinks she’ll be as unrelenting in her punishment as her father when she discovers about Ma Ru and Jae Hee’s past, and how Jae Hee thinks she can manipulate her (remember when Jae Hee told Ma Ru they should just let Eun Ki discover them kissing and that would clear everything up? That’s why she sends the text to her in episode 8.) She has this self destructive streak that also plays into her health issues. But even with all this, the one thing that has remained constant is that Eun Ki believes in herself. Even when no one else believes in her, even when she faces certain failure, even when she’s unsure about her own emotions, she believes in her own ability to make the right decisions. She has never fucked up as royally as Jae Hee has fucked up, and I can only hope that her access to choice, her ability to make decisions and act isn’t thrown by the wayside when she gets amnesia.
On Ma Ru and Love
Ma Ru is the character I’ve had the hardest time trying to figure out and I just realized why this week. He never speaks. You know how kdrama characters have a tendency to speak to themselves? Ma Ru has not done that since the first episode when he called Jae Hee “my ajumma” (which actually mirrors Eun Ki’s nickname for him). He has voice overs, but I’m starting to think they may be as misleading as the lies he uses to seduce women. He has a policy of avoidance. For example, after Eun Ki’s rain confession he doesn’t respond verbally–he hugs her. He doesn’t react to things the way Eun Ki does. His is a process of repression. He has such excellent control over his expressions. It’s almost like what he’s taken away from his experience with Jae Hee is that it’s never ok to feel too much, that that will only lead to pain. After Eun Ki’s confession she glances at him secretly. They’re shy with one another, even though he’s bandaging her feet. When she reaches over to touch his wounds he moves way. When she tries again he holds her hand away. It’s a continued refutation of any public admittance of weakness, just like how he keeps us at bay with his mask-like face. During that scene I couldn’t help but wonder, “But who cares for your wounds?”
I feel like Ma Ru has been in love with Jae hee for so long that he has to unlearn everything he’s gotten from that relationship. In these episodes we get to see him move from that frightening way he has of reacting by giving us that blank face and a barely discernable clench of his jaw. The first instance is when he glares at Jae Hee while hugging Eun Ki. It’s the first time Song Joong Ki has stared directly into the camera without meaning to be communicating to us, the audience. This stare is directed at Jae Hee; he’s speaking to her. Before he was usually undercutting the interaction in a scene by alerting us to his real motives, but this time he was challenging Jae Hee, and it was all sincere. The second instance is when he kisses Eun Ki on the cheek. He’s so cautious, like he’s testing something out. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the first time he was sincerely kissing someone other than Jae Hee. No doubt Eun Ki is inexperienced in the ways of love, but Ma Ru has his own version of inexperience to handle. I love the way the camera lingers on this kiss in the same manner it did when Eun Ki had kissed him–this time it moves down towards them while before it had moved up away from them. And, of course, there’s the cathartic moment when he finally cries over the end of his romance with Jae Hee.
On Jae Hee and Eun Ki
Jae Hee’s hypocrisy is stunning in episode 8. I actually had to stop the video in order to process the magnitude of her actions. She has two men beat Ma Ru up–and then she fabricates her own abuse. It’s so strange to watch the scene where Ma Ru confronts her, to compare her artificial, self-inflicted wounds to his very real ones. After Jae Shik’s call Ma Ru lifts Jae Hee’s chin gently to stare into the face of a liar, taking her in as she really is, maybe for the first time. He passes his thumb over her bruised lip–the bruise she created herself–and he reveals nothing. And then after he leaves she’s just sitting in this room, surrounded by the wreckage that she herself created. And I feel so bad for her, because she’s lost everything, everything, and it would have been so much better for her if she’d just been honest with Ma Ru. He probably would have gone crawling back to her. But her inability to trust anyone keeps her from being able to make any real alliances.
As much as I’m dreading the upcoming amnesia plot I have to say how much I appreciate that the narrative has so far eschewed any kind of fighting between Eun Ki and Jae Hee over Ma Ru. They have enough to fight about without adding him to the mix. I love that it’s Ma Ru who discovers Jae Hee’s treachery for himself, that it’s not something Eun Ki points out to him, that it’s something he gets to conclude within the parameters of his relationship with Jae Hee. He leaves her because of a serious breach of trust, not because she’s a “bad woman” and Eun Ki is a “good woman.” He doesn’t leave Jae Hee for Eun Ki: he leaves Jae Hee because she’s been so awful to him; he doesn’t go to Eun Ki Each woman stands on her own, and I commend Lee Kyung Hee for staying away (somewhat) from a rigid perception of women that only allows for two types to exist.
I want to focus on multiple conversations here, namely the ones Ma Ru and Eun Ki have about the status of their relationship, which I actually consider to be one continuous conversation. It begins with the warning Ma Ru gives to Eun Ki in episode 6 and ends with the questions she asks him at the end of episode 8. No doubt it’ll continue into episode 9 next week. I see it as one conversation because what they say each time they meet refers back to what they’ve already said, has intricate reverberations that make their interactions distinct from all others on the show.
Ma Ru: Seo Eun Ki. You stepped in shit. You’re unlucky. You got caught by the wrong man named Kang Ma Ru. Do you want to run away now, when you still can? Go out and put on your shoes, then run away with all your might. You only have one chance.
Eun Ki: Can I answer you now? [Kisses him in response.]
Episode 7 (6:00)
Ma Ru: Do you have something to say?
Eun Ki: No.
Episode 7 (26:00)
Eun Ki: …What’s wrong with your expression? Could it be that you thought of me as a potential marriage partner? That’s a little too much. Shouldn’t a person like you be able to tell the difference between a tree you can climb and one that’s an impossible dream, Kang Ma Ru-sshi?…Do you understand what I’m saying right now?
Ma Ru: I understand.
Eun Ki: It’s a relief that your brain works well. Amongst the men I’ve dated before there were those idiots who never understood the situation even until the end.
Ma Ru: Can I ask the reason for this sudden break up?
Eun Ki: It isn’t suddenly. It was planned like this from the very beginning. Falling for someone like Kang Ma Ru was the rare bout of passion in my empty life. “Bout” means it will inevitably end. Sooner or later, the end will come. “Let’s go crazy with this unique and mysterious man. Let’s see how deep I can fall, how much of myself I can pour into this passion.” I’d thought this would last for a month at most. My feelings lasted longer than I’d expected. This is a compliment. …[Looks at Ma Ru, who’s remained silent.] It’s absurd, isn’t it? You’re probably thinking how ridiculous this is. You must be feeling enraged, too. You want to ring my neck, don’t you. Of course from your point of view this situation is probably ludicrous, hard to accept, and hard to understand.
Ma Ru: It’s not hard. I understand.
Eun Ki: You…understand?
Ma Ru: You mean this is the end, right? Let’s do that then.
Eun Ki: It’s a relief that you are a person with such strong pride. What would I do if you were to hang on to me pathetically, like a leech? I was worried about that.
Ma Ru: Then it means we’re over, right? Let’s do that then. Since your condition doesn’t look good, go to the hospital as soon as you wake up.
Eun Ki: Sure. Is there more? Do you have anything else to say?
Ma Ru: Goodbye.
Eun Ki: Please stay well.
Episode 7 (59:00)
I…That was my first kiss. The one we shared by Hirosaki Castle. It was also the first time I told someone “I love you” with all my heart. It was the first time in the 29 years of my life that “I love you Seo Eun Ki,” that I heard that kind of heart thumping confession for the first time because of you. Because of a guy named Kang Ma Ru, waking, breathing, living, those things felt wondrous for the very first time. So my only wish right now is to be able to see you every day, to say “I love you” every day, to hear tell me you love me every day, to dream the same dream, and to give birth to children and to raise them, and to grow old with you. Is that possible?
Episode 8 (61:00)
Eun Ki: What kind of person was it?
Ma Ru: Someone I loved.
Eun Ki: Who was it?
Ma Ru: Han Jae Hee.
*Thanks to all the folks over at Viki for the subs!*
Eun Ki begins episode 6 by telling Ma Ru she has nothing to say to him. She then spends the rest of the episode seeking him out to speak to him. This is reciprocated when Ma Ru refuses to say anything else to Eun Ki when she asks if he has anything to say, and then is willing to truthfully answer her at the end of episode 8. It’s this pattern of reticence and candidness that they have. The rest of the conversation has a similar give-and-take cadence to it, which is best broken down through a list:
• Ma Ru tells Eun Ki to put on her shoes to run from him, but she ends up taking off her shoes and running to him.
• “It’s a relief that your brain works well.” In episode 3 Eun Ki responds to Ma Ru’s attraction to her by telling him he must have hurt his brain.
• “This is too much.” This reminds me of the phrase Ma Ru uses to call Eun Ki out on her attraction to him. He says she’s “going overboard” in her words. Actually, it’s the exact same thing she’s doing here, exactly like when she’d asked him if his home was built using the leftover materials from surrounding buildings.
• Eun Ki refers to “impossible dreams,” which is something that characterizes Ma Ru and Jae Hee’s conversations. Jae Hee wants to stay in her dream like world and Ma Ru’s past with her remains a kind of “impossible” dream that he can never get back.
• “A person like you.” In episode 1 Ma Ru asked Jae Hee if “a guy like[him]” wouldn’t be enough for her to make it through prison; in episode 4 Jae Hee asks Ma Ru if “a guy like [him]” could ever understand the dream like world she’s living in.
• “It was planned like this from the very beginning.” Eun Ki is implying that she’sthe one who planned their relationship from the very beginning, when they both know (although Ma Ru doesn’t know she knows) that he’s the one who planned it. She’s letting him think that she believes that she was the one with power in the relationship, when she’s aware that he was the one who had it. She’s making it as though she’s the one who was using him, when she knows it was the other way around. She’s protecting him emotionally (as if she’s giving him a buffer from feeling too awful about what he did to her) and physically—she knows that her father and Lawyer Park could set thugs on him, that they could attack him with the law. So her breaking up with him is as much a protection for herself as it is a protection for him. She’s giving him an out, just like he’d attempted to give her an out when he warned her and told her to run away. (This whole break up scene could be seen as her taking him up on that offer; more on that below.) It’s funny, because Eun Ki thinks she needs to protect him from Lawyer Park and her father, but really he’s in danger from Jae Hee, who has him beat to a pulp. Jae Hee didn’t do it to keep him away from Eun Ki, she had it done to show him how much power she has (remember what he’d said about him having nothing to lose and her having everything? She’s reminding him he has his sister and his life to lose), to punish him for setting her brother on her (or so she thinks).
• Eun Ki doesn’t pause in ringing Ma Ru’s doorbell this time.
• She refers to her past boyfriends during the break up scene, but then calls Ma Ru her first love. I think this is a “Ça commence avec toi” moment for Eun Ki. That’s a lyric form the Edith Piaf song, Je Ne Regrette Rien, where she basically says everything that has preceded this love of her life means nothing to her. I think Eun Ki is renouncing the past and making a new beginning with Ma Ru. She doesn’t mean her first kiss literally, she means her first kiss as in this is the one that meant something because this is the first one of this relationship. This relationship is the reason she’s letting go of her “throne,” the reason she’s leaving behind everything she’s known in her life, and so everything in it is a first with a capital F.
• Speaking of kisses, I think it is so important that they don’t kiss after Eun Ki’s confession. Every kiss they’ve had so far has been during Ma Ru’s deception, and it makes sense for them to “start” anew with something different. The hug is surprisingly more intimate than any of their kisses have been so far, and it communicates something else entirely in terms of body language. Ma Ru wraps her up in his arms, drawing her to him, a physical response to her confession, and his doing so when he’s so physically fragile himself is a moment of tenderness we had yet to have seen from him. It also mirrors when he’d first caught her from fainting on the plane.
• During the break up scene Eun Ki emphasizes endings and laughs at the idea of marrying Ma Ru, during her confession she emphasizes beginnings and says she wants to build a life with Ma Ru, and during the last scene of episode 8 she’s forging ahead with questions she knows that answers to, questions she’s already confronted herself, but which she knows they have to tackle together in order to have a healthy relationship.
Eun Ki begins her break up with a feigned indifference, a bravado we haven’t seen her give Ma Ru since the third episode. She’s flippant, she’s glib, she couldn’t care less about the man standing next to her. But when Ma Ru accepts the break up so easily she starts to change. She experiences this entire range of emotions, and I love that Moon Chae Won is playing this role because her face is like this screen that perfectly showcases them. She starts to project all these supposed things Ma Ru’s supposed to be feeling—”You’re probably thinking how ridiculous this is. You must be feeling enraged, too. You want to ring my neck, don’t you. Of course from your point of view this situation is probably ludicrous, hard to accept, and hard to understand”—which are really things she knows she should be feeling cause in reality she’s the one who’s been wronged, but they’re things she doesn’t feel at all (Kat from 10 Things I hate About You, “not even a little bit, not even at all” :)). When Ma Ru confirms that he really does understand and that they really should break things off, Eun Ki’s bravado slips. She’s confused and hurt, even a little disbelieving. I think this demonstrates that this break up is a return to Eun Ki’s testing Ma Ru, which I spoke about in the reflection for episodes 3 and 4.
She’s testing him again. She’s got this information about him and she has hard proof of it, but she still doesn’t want to believe it. Those words Lawyer Park used, “ulterior motives” are gnawing at her. She knows what she feels for him is real, and she wants what she thought he felt for her, what he said he felt for her, to be real, too. So she figures that she’s going to break up with him, and if he doesn’t accept it, if he insists on continuing their relationship like he did in episode 3, then it’s a confirmation that he’s using her. But he agrees to let her go. It confuses her. Why would someone who has ulterior motives let her go? And she’s not so sure she would have walked away anyway, even if he had tried to hold on to her and that had confirmed his “ulterior motives.” What would she do if he had “hung on to her pathetically, like a leech?” And then they look at each other, and that false confidence has been replaced with something softer, something more wistful, and all she has is a barely there smile lingering about her lips as a defense. We later learn that he gives her some medication and worries for her health, and she asks him if he has anything else to say hopefully, because she wants him to say something more. She obviously has more to say. She’s a little pissed when he just says goodbye. Afterwards she’s totally drained from the exertion of putting on that performance.
*I just adored this little moment between the two. As Ma Ru approaches Eun Ki, totally unaware of what’s about to happen, she looks him over from head to toe, with this wry little smile. When he places his hand on her forehead she looks away and then cuts back to him, and it’s like she can’t believe how brazen he’s being with his affection because everything he does falls under the pallor of his “ulterior motives.” It’s the first time she’s in complete control of the romance, and it’s a delicious thing to watch. The beaming adoration, the “reverence” she used to gaze at him with is gone. In fact, Ma Ru is the one who looks at her, for once, in the break up scene. It actually reminds me of the look she’d given him at the end of episode 3, the one that lead me and a lot of other folks to believe she knew about Ma Ru’s past with Jae Hee.*
Later on Jae Hee tells her she should have cut off their relationship, not knowing that she already has. It indicates to Eun Ki that Ma Ru did not sign the papers. I wonder if she takes this to mean that he did have more that he wanted to say? That his not signing the papers is part of their conversation? She remembers the answer she’d first given him when he’d given her the warning, the kiss, and all the things that made her give that answer. It’s like she’s asking herself, “Does the potential that he wasn’t sincere make my own feelings illegitimate? Is breaking up what she really wants? Am I willing to risk being hurt in order to see if I’ll be loved the way I love?” She decides to take a chance, to be one of those “idiots,” a “pathetic leech” and to go to him and confess again, this time with a full knowledge of Ma Ru’s past, though he’s not aware of her knowledge.
Adding Ma Ru’s warning to the conversation makes things even more complex, because it means that they are communicating in code. It means that when Eun Ki first breaks up, then gives that final soul bearing confession, she does so within the context of Ma Ru’s warning. She frames breaking up with him as if it’s for obvious socioeconomic differences, which is how she’d originally thought of his warning:
What he’s saying isn’t what she’s hearing. He’s saying, “I will hurt you, I am hurting you. This is your chance to keep that from happening,” but what she’s hearing is “I’m not good enough for you. You should leave and find a better man.”
She now knows what he really meant, but she continues to operate within the framework of the script that he established. It’s a continuation of them not acknowledging things straight out. This final confession is a re-affirmation of her original answer to his warning, and a (new) negation of the break up. What she refers to is not his lying, but her reality, that she said “I love you” and meant it for the first time. And she doesn’t just confess, she doesn’t just say she loves him, she asks him how he feels in return, which, again, shows us her agency. Oh, Eun Ki, I love you so much!
[Addendum: I’ve read the transcripts for the long previews for this week’s episodes, and it looks like the show is going to betray me. I might not be able to put anything up next week because I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be too busy doing this: