First, WITH S2 will be subtitling this (as a side project, so please be patient!), so I hope you’ll give them your thanks — it’s a terrific show and well worth the attention.

Second, since I’m behind on the series, I’ll ask once more just as a reminder to PLEASE DON’T SPOIL the later episodes! Thanks.

This series is one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen recently, and one that I don’t have to qualify with footnotes (as in, “This takes seven and a half episodes of wasted time before it gets good” or “Be patient, it’ll get better”).

SONG OF THE DAY

Kim Min Jong – “그대와 영원히” (With You Forever), the song sung by Jae Bin in episode 6. This song, originally by Yoo Jae Ha and something of a classic love song, has been covered a lot, but I like this version by actor-singer Kim Min Jong (Hyena, Feelings) from his 1996 third album. There are versions by Leeds and Kim Bum Soo too, but I think the simplicity of the song works better without their excess vocal frills. [ Download ]

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EPISODE 5

Madam Go (Go Jung Sook) and Yoo Shik flag down Jae Bin as he’s leaving the party with Sun Hee. But because this is a drama and they must tease us over the reunion between Sun Hee and her adulterous husband, she doesn’t see them — Jae Bin tells her to wait by the car while he deals with their sycophantic kow-towing.

(For some reason it feels wrong to call Go Jung Sook by her first name, but she’s a recurring character so I should just get used to it. It must be that Korean thinking that keeps the younger generation from addressing elders without sufficient respect.)

This is an interesting relationship — Jung Sook is essentially buying Yoo Shik’s attentions, but their interactions are pretty chaste. Despite his failure to run his own business successfully, Yoo Shik is made the manager of her elite new bar. Sometimes it seems like he’s operating under a case of Stockholm Syndrome — desperately afraid of displeasing her, happy to be her kept man. (I question whether he really likes her or is acting out of self-preservation — or if he’s too much of a coward to truly love at all.) She explains later that she’s never had a real relationship — she was born wealthy and sent into an arranged marriage — and wants to take it slow.

After they apologize, Jae Bin leaves but finds Sun Hee gone; she’s taken the bus home.

He gets home first and impatiently waits for her. And hides when he spies her walking up the lane with his brother, who runs into her just outside the house. His irritated jealousy is hilarious and cute, and he takes it out on her by demanding that she cook for him. Immediately.

(The jealousy routine is familiar territory, and similar to Rain’s character in Full House — in fact this drama has a lot of similar moments to Full House, and I think they’re even using the same mansion. Normally I’d dislike a drama evoking such similarity to a prior one — but in this case Last Scandal is like a better version of Full House. Jung Joon Ho’s jealousy is much more endearing and layered than Rain’s constant shouting; I thought Full House was cute, but too one-dimensional to be truly good. But despite the occasional similarity, I try not to compare the two overmuch.)

Jae Bin continually brings up her runaway husband to needle her, not really understanding how seriously she’s worried about Yoo Shik’s disappearance or that he’s crossing a joking line. She even hires a private investigator despite not having the $2,000 fee. Somehow she’ll come up with the money.

Dong Hwa is growing fonder of Sun Hee, especially seeing how well Hoon takes to her; she’s very motherly to Hoon. (The good kind of motherly, not the abandoney kind like Na Yoon.)

She meets them on their morning walk and offers some freshly drawn mineral water. With Dong Hwa listening, Jae Bin calls over the walkie-talkie, ordering her around excessively because that’s his equivalent of a schoolboy pulling a girl’s hair or scaring her with rodents. Dong Hwa gives him a dressing-down for his out-of-line behavior toward the poor housekeeper.

Jae Bin is irritated that Sun Hee looks after his brother so attentively, so when Dong Hwa and Hoon both fall ill due to water poisoning, he relentlessly taunts her for making them sick. She’s wracked with guilt, and Jae Bin exaggerates the situation by saying his brother is furious. (You practically expect him to burst into song, “Oooh, you’re so deaaaaaad…”) But to Dong Hwa he actually defends Sun Hee, saying she couldn’t have known it would make them sick.

After meeting a director to finalize movie plans, Jae Bin comes home in high spirits and pretty drunk. At her wits’ end, Sun Hee decides to ask Jae Bin for the money for the investigator, and butters him up by plying him with more liquor — the blatant flattery she heaps on him is so disgustingly sweet that it’s a hoot (“You don’t have any flaws. You’re good-looking, you have a great build — that’s why women like you so much! You even drink so well, it’s so manly.”)

That gives him the idea that she’s flirting with him, which makes his reaction hilarious (I’m using that word a lot to describe Last Scandal) — she asks what scene he’s filming tomorrow, and he answers that he doesn’t want to tell her because she’d feel hurt to hear it’s a kissing scene. Unfortunately, just as she’s working up to her request for money, he passes out.

In the morning, he’s so hungover that he can’t make his shoot, and Dong Hwa circulates the press that Jae Bin’s actually ill so he doesn’t look irresponsible. (Jae Bin also accuses Sun Hee of getting him drunk so she he’d miss out on his kissing scene. HAHA.)

Sun Hee follows Jae Bin around all morning, looking for a chance to ask for money. When he pesters her to play a video game with him, she jumps at the carrot he dangles — if she beats him, he’ll give her one wish. If she loses, he gets the usual kiddie-game wager — a two-fingered slap on the arm. She loses repeatedly, and Jae Bin delights in claiming his reward. Finally he asks straight out what she wants, but she’s too embarrassed to tell him unless he agrees to say yes first.

But he tells her he’s already figured it out — misguidedly assuming her wish is a kiss. With a self-satisfied smirk: “Is that why you followed me around all day? Dream on… didn’t I tell you these lips were thousand-dollar lips?”

She insists he’s wrong and demands a video-game rematch. She loses again, but this time when he tries to claim his victory slap, he sees the bruises from his earlier hits. Feeling sorry, he tends to her bruises with ice and agrees to say yes, whatever her wish is. She tells him she needs $2,000 for the investigator to find her husband.

Jae Bin deflates to hear her mention her husband, but agrees to give her the money. He calls her outside to watch a movie — then laughs at his prank, because it’s the tape of Sun Hee offering to sleep with him for money. He thinks it was all acting and finds it funny; embarrassed, Sun Hee plays along. (They don’t see Dong Hwa, arriving home, around the corner to witness this.)

But Sun Hee becomes overwhelmed, seeing her desperation onscreen, and Jae Bin sobers to see her crying, realizing it was all real. She starts to leave, and he grabs her back —

 
EPISODE 6

The next morning, both are embarrassed and awkward around each other, although they regain some equilibrium when they resume bickering. (Whether she believes it or is making excuses, she says he must’ve been practicing for his kissing scene, but he’d better not try that again.)

Dong Hwa’s disappointment at seeing his brother with Sun Hee is understandable but not exactly heartbreaking, since his interest has been kept to himself; he’s never made any outward signs of liking her. He has his employee to look into her background and asks her unnervingly pointed questions about her husband — he knows she’s lying when she says he’s away on business.

Jae Bin calls Sun Hee to demand she bring him lunch to his shoot, where she runs into Na Yoon. Na Yoon has worked her way into a leading role opposite Jae Bin in his upcoming movie, and despite her past with Dong Hwa, she looks determined to finagle her way back into Jae Bin’s good graces. But he’s still so bitter over their past that he can barely stand her presence.

Jae Bin asks about the investigation to find her husband, and deduces that Yoo Shik spent time in jail. He’s full of disgust for her cowardly husband: “He really is a bastard. You did all that for him and he still ran away?… As a fellow man, it’s an embarrassment. You’re still going to take the side of a guy like that?” His outrage is on her behalf, but she can’t help but bridle at his harsh criticism of her husband. (Even though he’s right.)

Sun Hee knows nothing of the brothers’ past with Na Yoon, so she sees no reason to turn aside Na Yoon’s friendly overtures or her offer of a ride home from the shoot. Na Yoon is therefore present when Hoon comes home from school, though she feels let down to see the comfortable familiarity Hoon and Sun Hee enjoy.

(Na Yoon may have abandoned her son shortly after his birth, but wants to rebuild that bridge now. Also, if Na Yoon used to date Jae Bin, I wonder at how she came to have a child with his brother, and why the brothers still have a relatively good relationship despite that. But since she left, maybe they figured they were both well rid of her.)

Jae Bin comes home that night and finds Sun Hee asleep at the counter — she’d been waiting up for him — and walks away quietly so as not to disturb her from sleep. But he’s in earshot when she awakens at a phone call from the investigator, and his mood sours at her worry over her husband.

Sun Hee finds the lunch containers he’s returned and opens them to find a lollipop and a note (SO SWEET). The note reads, in Jae Bin’s typical jokester manner: “Thanks for lunch. For a star, the side dishes were somewhat lacking. Pay more attention in the future.”

The next day, Jung Sook has planned to pay Dong Hwa a polite business call, which throws Yoo Shik into a panic because he’d spied Sun Hee at the house (he dropped by with get-well flowers the day before — a gesture meant to kiss Jae Bin’s ass — but saw Sun Hee and ran away).

Yoo Shik hurriedly calls his mother, taking care to keep the truth from Jung Sook — she knows he left his wife but doesn’t know the cowardly way he did so. On Yoo Shik’s instructions, his mother insists on meeting Sun Hee that day. But Sun Hee’s in a tough spot, because her employer wants her to help receive their guests, and she isn’t free to leave — so she sends Jimin to grandma instead and stays home.

Dong Hwa, Hoon, and Sun Hee head to the supermarket to buy refreshments for their expected guests — and Sun Hee glimpses Yoo Shik from across the store, but loses sight of him when she tries to follow. Yoo Shik has dropped by to buy their hosts a gift on their way in, and doesn’t see her.


At the house, Jae Bin’s the only one there to (reluctantly) greet Yoo Shik and Jung Sook. Upon hearing that everyone (including Sun Hee) is expected back soon, Yoo Shik panics, and invents an excuse to step outside, leaving Jung Sook alone and confused.

Yoo Shik scrambles to hide, winding up in Sun Hee’s quarters. He barely escapes discovery when Jae Bin wanders in, looking for Sun Hee (and sees her calendar marked with a particular date circled).

Jae Bin finally finds Sun Hee sitting by the water; she’s shaken from seeing her husband at the store: “I’m sure I saw him.”

Jae Bin: “Then I was right. See, your husband is a bastard.”
Sun Hee: “What?”
Jae Bin: “If he’s wandering around a supermarket, perfectly well, and doesn’t contact you, isn’t that the end of the story?”

Jae Bin tells her not to waste her tears on him, but Sun Hee takes issue with his clumsy words and tells him not to meddle with her personal issues.

Sun Hee storms off, and Jae Bin says in exasperation, “Is she really dumb? How can she not understand what I mean?”

Jung Sook leaves, and when she’s a safe distance from the house, Yoo Shik pops up in front of her car. She’s furious and humiliated with his desertion, and Yoo Shik fumbles for a credible excuse. He finds the perfect one, flattering her vanity — he was so furious at Jae Bin, he was afraid he’d lose control and hit him! She’s totally confused, but he says that he’s been angry at Jae Bin ever since the party, when Jae Bin angrily demanded an apology (on Sun Hee’s behalf). He works himself up into a fine frenzy: “I can take him disregarding me, but I can’t take him treating my woman so poorly!”

She totally melts. And I’ve gotta say, Yoo Shik is a cowardly, no-good, worthless husband, but I have grudging admiration of his ability to dig himself out of really deep holes. Not only does he succeed in explaining his behavior, the explanation actually makes a lot of sense — if only it were true.

Despite their awkwardness, Sun Hee and Jae Bin try to make up for their previous conflict by doing little tasks for each other — but of course they both fumble and mess up.

Jae Bin asks if she’s busy later (she isn’t), but doesn’t specify why he asked. The reason doesn’t become clear until later, when he calls her with an opening they have for an extra — does she want it? Hearing how much they pay, she accepts. He tells her to dress up in the clothes he bought her because she’ll get fired if she looks like a mess.

She finds out soon enough that it was all a lie to get her to come out with him, and they have fun roller-skating at an empty rink.

Afterwards, he takes her to a (again empty) bar, and serenades her.

      “그대와 영원히” (With You Forever)

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This tangled hair
doesn’t obey anymore when I brush it
Unfocused eyes
can’t see anymore, though I try
But with closed eyes, gazing only at me,
heart opens heart
A warm hand on my lonely shoulder
gives me comforting rest
 
From the red sea to the sun, I’ll gladly go with you
Even though this world may change, my love is with you forever
 
My dulled head
doesn’t feel anything anymore
My dried-out lips
can’t say anything anymore
But if I tune my ears to that pure voice,
I hear the sound of happiness
In my decaying heart, that lovely smile
will remain forever

Before you get too excited, she’s presented with a cake, and Jae Bin wishes her a happy birthday.

Only, she says, it’s not her birthday.

HAHAHA.

Her birthday was actually last week; the date he saw circled on the calendar was her wedding anniversary.

Sun Hee: “To be honest though, I’m the only one who remembers my wedding anniversary. He never prepared anything for it. You might be surprised, but this is the first time I’ve received a cake like this. Don’t look at me like that. You might not understand since you’ve never married, but that’s how it is. People who remember to celebrate it are the unusual ones. Still, I did wonder if he’d call today. It’s because I’m a woman — always wondering ‘What if?’ and anticipating, and crying from hurt feelings if he doesn’t understand. Thinking about it, I can’t remember an anniversary where I didn’t cry. If I put on makeup and hoped, he’d end up not doing anything, and I’d be disappointed. Thanks for today, really. It might be silly to you, but I was really touched. So don’t get angry today. Okay?”
Jae Bin: “I wish I wouldn’t either, but it does make me mad. You know you’re making me angry with a lot of different things, don’t you?”

Just then, Sun Hee gets a phone call from the investigators: They’ve located her husband.

Jae Bin drives her to the address of a ritzy apartment building and prods a nervous Sun Hee to go in. She makes it to the door, but can’t bring herself to knock, and comes rushing back out.

Panicking, she tells Jae Bin she heard someone inside, obviously afraid to confront her fears. He offers to go with her, but she tells him to leave — because if he’s seen with her, things could look bad for his image. (It evokes just the right amount of sympathy twisted with pain that even in her panic, she’s worried about him, doesn’t it?)

Sun Hee turns back to try again, and sees Yoo Shik arriving. Excited and relieved, she runs to him and throws her arms around him…

 
Additionally…

You know, I think it’s a disservice to call The Last Scandal of My Life an ajumma drama. It’s a well-written, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming drama — period. I don’t care that the main characters are a little older than we’re used to in a rom-com, or that three of the four people in the love rectangle are parents. Or even that one is married — the adultery is all on Sun Hee’s husband’s part, and they’re doing a pretty good job so far in showing the developing romance without making Sun Hee seem loosely moraled. The characters are thoroughly enjoyable, and that’s what matters. So there. I’ve totally eaten my words on ajumma dramas.

 
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