A Star’s Lover: Episode 7
Again, I found this episode a little predictable, but still enjoyable. That just may become the theme for A Star’s Lover (predictable but appealing), and for now, I’m okay with that. There are enough moments — like the end of this episode — that keep my interest up for the next plot turn. Also, Choi Ji-woo was pretty good in this episode; if she keeps this up, maybe it’ll be enough to wash away unpleasant memories of her past works for me.
SONG OF THE DAY
I.U. – “미운오리” (Ugly duck) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Following Mari’s outburst admitting her feelings for him, Chul-soo gapes for a moment, saved by a phone call: Yuri is in the hospital. He rushes out, running right past Woo-jin, who has arrived bearing his box of Christmas ornaments.
(A bit of a cop-out, in my opinion. Gee, what an easy way to get Chul-soo out of this situation without actually forcing him to make a choice! What’s the point of setting up this choice between the two women and then delivering him from the dilemma?)
Mari catches up to Chul-soo in her car, not even noticing as she drives past Woo-jin. Chul-soo tries to refuse Mari’s offer of a ride, but his concern for Yuri overrides his reluctance, and he gets in.
Eun-young walks into Chul-soo’s aunts’ place and greets everyone. However, the aunts, suspecting Chul-soo of cheating with another woman, can’t look her in the eye and welcome her with forced gladness.
In her nervousness, Eldest Aunt lets slip something about “When a son is having an affair…” She doesn’t finish the thought, but Eun-young’s women’s intuition is firing and she takes note.
Realizing he left his camera out, Byung-joon searches all over for it, only to find his editor working on a story using the pictures, with details of Mari’s shocking secret romance. Byung-joon tries to convince his boss that he’d photoshopped the image, and while the editor doesn’t believe him, he doesn’t care either way — the business is facing tough times, and they need this story. It’s going to publish whether he likes it or not.
At the hospital, Mari starts to follow Chul-soo in, but he thanks her and tells her to go back home, then rushes to Yuri’s bedside without giving Mari a chance to protest. Curious and concerned, Mari wraps a scarf around her head and follows him (unnoticed) into the ward.
In his worry, he doesn’t even register the woman sitting at Yuri’s bedside: his mother. When she calls his name, he recognizes her, hardens, and stalks out. His mother chases him into the hallway, while Mari hides around the corner.
Mom says tearily, “My baby’s grown so much. But you still have some of the features you did as a child.” She tries showing motherly concern, but Chul-soo’s having none of it; he knocks her outstretched arm aside. Mom explains that Yuri had come to find her and asks about her illness. Unwilling to look at or talk to her, Chul-soo tells her coldly to leave. When she persists, he loses his temper and yells at her to go.
At this point, the Three Aunts and Eun-young arrive, and if you thought Chul-soo’s reaction was chilly, that’s nothing compared to his aunts. Eldest Aunt is especially offended and hits Mom (name: Bo-young), cursing her audacity in showing her face. Chul-soo tries to keep the women apart, and as Bo-young leaves, the two younger aunts have to literally hold back the eldest to keep her from attacking.
Mari, watching in sympathy, is spotted by Chul-soo. Anticipating his angry reaction, she runs away.
Mari hadn’t intended to witness the scene, and protests as Chul-soo grabs her arm and leads her forcibly outside, depositing her at her car. The family fight has been both upsetting and embarrassing to Chul-soo’s pride, and he erupts, “Why do you keep witnessing things I don’t want you to see?!”
Not knowing what to ask but wanting to say something, Mari asks cautiously, “Are you… coming home tonight?” He walks away without answering, and Mari scolds herself for the badly worded question
Eun-young wants to stay to show her support, but Chul-soo tries to suggest that she leave as well (albeit more nicely than with Mari). She wonders if he’s bothered by her presence, saying, “That makes me sad. I feel like an outsider.”
She asks who he ran off after, and he answers, “Just someone I know.” Eun-young has a pretty good idea of the situation (and she’s fairly perceptive), so her question is really to give him the opportunity to confide in her. Thus his noncommittal answer disappoints.
Woo-jin is still waiting when Mari arrives home, and suggests talking over dinner. He takes her to a private room at a fancy restaurant, but Mari is distracted throughout dinner, upset over her argument with Chul-soo — and, more to the point, she’s disinterested in Woo-jin.
Mari reminds Woo-jin that she’d dated his cousin and caused a scandal when she rejected his proposal: “Isn’t it ridiculous for me to be here like this?” She gets up to leave.
Woo-jin stops her with an apology — he should have been honest from the start: “I like making bets. I made a foolish bet with you as the goal. … I told myself, ‘Let’s not tell her about it until she comes to recognize me.'” Mari wonders, “Recognize you?” Woo-jin: “I thought you would recognize me.”
He presents her with the box of ornaments, adding, “It was so long ago, you may not remember. But to me, it’s a very important memory linked to my deceased mother. I once gave you a star like this one.”
On that day years ago, Woo-jin had accompanied his grandfather to the orphanage where she lived (which was run by her grandmother). After meeting her, he repeatedly asked his grandfather to take him back to see her.
Woo-jin assures her, “I didn’t do this as a joke, so don’t be angry.”
Now remembering, Mari’s mood relaxes, no longer so distantly cool. She says, “You said you’d marry me, didn’t you? You said you’d come get me when we were older.”
Woo-jin doesn’t recall that specific line, but Mari remembers how he visited often for a year, but then stopped coming, which saddened her. Woo-jin explains that he’d gone to live in America.
In an effort to help Mari and Chul-soo, Byung-joon forces his way to meet Tae-seok, warning him that a story is about to break regarding their supposed romance.
Tae-seok looks like he’s holding back a temper tantrum when he sees the photos, but keeps his rage in check. He gets on the phone with Byung-joon’s editor and makes a deal: He’ll give them an exclusive interview with another (rumored, unconfirmed) couple in exchange for killing the Mari story. Byung-joon will get the scoop.
Tae-seok decides it’s time he got Mari back under his control, and assumes exclusive managership. Jang-soo will leave his position as manager and prepare for his acting audition; Ye-rin is assigned to manage him (to the displeasure of both).
Yuri apologizes to her brother for worrying him and for bringing their mother into this: “I’m sorry. But I wanted to see Mom.”
In disguise, Mari comes to the hospital while Chul-soo is visiting, but doesn’t enter the room. Instead, she calls him from the hallway and asks when he’ll be back to resume their studies. Chul-soo answers that he won’t have time for a while, trying to keep his voice down while Yuri overhears. He tells her impatiently not to wait for him.
Yuri asks who the phone call was with, and doesn’t immediately believe that it’s a mere student, “because this is the first time I’ve seen you speak like that to someone else.”
Happily anticipating their resumed sessions, Mari cooks, calls Chul-soo over, and presents him with breakfast, proud of her domestic skills.
Chul-soo’s mood turns cranky at mention of his mother, but Mari points out, “Still, you shouldn’t be too mean to her” because at least he still has a mother. Chul-soo answers that sometimes being abandoned by a parent is worse than losing one in an accident. A little surprised at himself, Chul-soo mutters that he hadn’t meant to confide in her, which pleases Mari.
Though she finished the last three books quickly, Mari’s still not what we’d call an enthusiastic reader — she picks the skinniest book as her next choice: The Little Prince. Mari and Chul-soo slip into a comfortable pattern when he gets up to leave for work (she asks when he’ll be home, he tells her to eat dinner without him), prompting Mari to brush off his coat in a wifely manner and joke, “It really feels like we’re married.”
The interlude is interrupted by the door buzzer: It’s Tae-seok. With the manager-actress relationship so volatile these days, Mari pushes Chul-soo into her room to hide. Although Tae-seok sees Chul-soo’s bag on the couch, he doesn’t comment, keeping his tone deceptively pleasant as he delivers a stack of scripts and a painting, which he offers to hang. Nervously, Mari tries to prevent Tae-seok from wandering around too much.
Tae-seok’s sharp eyes miss nothing (like the kitchen table set for two), but he maintains his cordial tone and heads for her bedroom — which really makes Mari uneasy. She stops him from wandering any further just as Chul-soo, who has retreated further and further into her closet, gets a call from Eun-young.
He picks up quickly, whispering in a panic that he can’t talk. When he hangs up, the absurdity of his situation hits him and he wonders, “What am I doing?”
Eun-young reaches for something on Chul-soo’s bookshelf, dislodging a box in the process. Upon picking up the contents, she finds a picture of Chul-soo and Mari, taken at the amusement park in Japan.
Byung-joon walks in at that moment, sees Eun-young’s stricken face, and guesses the truth. He assures her (in a nervous way that fools nobody) that Chul-soo’s dealings with Mari are strictly book-related. His excuses are unnecessary, though, because it’s almost like Eun-young has decided what to believe. As though convincing herself, she says, “It’s just one picture.”
Eun-young asks Byung-joon to keep this a secret from Chul-soo, and he agrees. But as he is someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve, he groans to himself, “Why do I keep getting stuck with secrets??”
Tae-seok tells Mari he wants to make nice and go back to their usual routine. However, even his attempt at reconciliation is heavy-handed and controlling; Mari doesn’t take kindly to his continued intrusions into her private life and tells him to leave — she’ll go to the office to discuss business.
Still in his menacingly pleasant way, Tae-seok agrees, and advises her to hang the picture: “You have someone to help, don’t you?” He exits, leaving Mari looking genuinely unnerved.
Mari tells Chul-soo the coast is clear and tries to lighten the mood. In the wake of his moment of clarity, however, he tells her, “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. While I was hiding, I answered a call from my girlfriend. I didn’t know this was wrong, but as I answered that call, I realized it was.”
Mari replies, “What did we do that was wrong? We just studied.” Chul-soo: “You said you liked me. That may be you playing around, but let’s stop. You can read the books on your own.”
Mustering a bright smile, Mari cajoles, “Still, I need you.” Raising his voice in frustration, Chul-soo tells her to stop saying things like that, acting so easy to everyone.
Chul-soo: “I enjoyed our time together too, but that’s all. To be clear, I don’t like you. I won’t in the future, either. You’re not real to me. I’m not such a fool to confuse a shallow, dreamlike feeling from a star with the genuineness of someone I love.”
Mari’s smile fades, replaced with a hurt look. Chul-soo drives that nail in the coffin with: “To me, you’re fake.” Mari’s eyes tear, but she forces a smile and answers in an agreeing tone: “You’re right. I hear that all the time. But I didn’t know I’d hear that from you. I guess I was a fake to you. You’re right, I’m all fake.”
A little desperately, she continues, “I lied about liking you, too. I just said it for no reason, so you can relax. But — do you have any idea what it’s like to live as a fake?”
Mari manages to keep her face controlled until she turns, and then the tears fall.
(Chul-soo’s pretty harsh in his speech here, and I don’t think he actually believes it. It’s similar to before, when he had to be extra-severe as though to convince himself, rather than convincing her. This is probably because, as I see it, Chul-soo’s upset with himself more than anyone else. He’s not fighting his feelings, he’s fighting his guilt over feeling them.)
Eun-young accompanies Chul-soo to visit the literature professor (who is a friend of her writer father). His copy of Lovers in Asuka turns the conversation to Mari and, pretending not to know that Chul-soo wrote the book, Eun-young asks for the professor’s opinion on her writing style (he says the book is well-written).
The professor has to cut the meeting short, however, because of a problem with a professor who was found to have ghostwritten a book. He deplores this proof of society’s downturn and figures that the man will probably have to be fired.
After the meeting, with the professor’s words weighing heavily on their minds, Eun-young apologizes for her part in the ghostwriting scheme — she feels it’s her fault, because she paid his tuition against his wishes, forcing him to insist upon paying her back.
Eun-young tries to broach the subject of Mari and asks if he still meets the person he’d ghostwritten for. Chul-soo’s answer is vague; he says they met a few times in Seoul, but probably won’t be meeting anymore.
Mari’s hairstylist worries at her gloominess, and asks what’s going on. Mari answers, “I wonder what I have to do to live for real. Someone told me I’m a fake. A shallow dream.”
Her loyal hairstylist sputters in indignation at the words of the unknown offender, but Mari asks, “But what do I do? I think I’ve really fallen for him. It feels one-sided and unfair.”
Woo-jin calls Mari to compliment her on her book; he’d read many of the novels she mentioned, and is gratified to discover that their literary tastes match. Distractedly, Mari asks about his business trip, but he doesn’t make the subject switch with her, saying, “Holden is my favorite person” (referring, of course, to Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye). Not catching the reference, Mari responds, “I guess you went to see Holden, then.”
When he clarifies his meaning, Woo-jin accepts her excuse that she was thinking of something else, and tells her they’ll have a lot to talk about the next time they meet — not exactly a source of relief for Mari.
Without Chul-soo’s help, Mari attempts to do the reading on her own in the following days.
To make matters worse, a fresh wave of internet rumors hits the web. This time, it’s a “blind item” that is disturbingly specific: “Top star Miss A under suspicion of ghostwriting… Ghostwriter Mr. B steps forward…”
Chul-soo and Mari are both called to Tae-seok’s office to handle the scandal. Perhaps because of the specificity of reports (and also Chul-soo’s desertion), Mari is much more shaken this time.
Meeting in the elevator on their way up, Chul-soo asks if she’s okay; she grabs his hand tightly in worry. He isn’t as upset as the other two, because he knows the report must be fake — since he’s the real ghostwriter, anybody claiming to have written Mari’s book is lying.
However, Tae-seok takes a different opinion. In a business where image is everything, “There’s no such thing as truth here. There’s only rumors and gossip. The moment something’s printed, nothing becomes something! And the ghostwriting IS for real!”
Tae-seok’s anger at Mari and Chul-soo arises from frustration over the scandal, but I think it’s also displaced jealousy, because he becomes particularly enraged when Chul-soo defends Mari (i.e., this was never her idea so Tae-seok has no business yelling at her). Mari in turn tells Tae-seok not to drag Chul-soo into this mess.
Tae-seok asks, “How long did you think you could keep this a secret? Did you think I wouldn’t find out you were dating?” Mari asserts that she’s not involved with Chul-soo, and her indignation is real enough that Tae-seok seems to believe her. He asks, “Are you really not involved?”
Angry at his prying, Mari yells that he’s out of line, so Tae-seok backs off: “I’ll suppress reports this time, but prepare yourselves for more. From now on, everything they see will become news.” Therefore, Chul-soo and Mari cannot meet anymore.
Mari refuses: “No. I’m going to do as I want.” Tae-seok tells her that she’d better be prepared to come clean about the book, then, because if the ghostwriting is discovered, they’re both ruined: “Do you want to lose everything you’ve built up so far?”
Tae-seok turns to Chul-soo to ask what he could do for Mari when the news comes out — his writing and teaching careers would be over. He challenges Mari, “Would you still keep seeing him?”
She’d remained quiet when he railed about the threat to her career, but bringing in Chul-soo’s ruination pushes her over (because! This is Twoo Love! And that makes people unselfish!) This time, Mari breaks. She answers: “I won’t see him.”
At that, Chul-soo — disappointed? relieved? — turns and leaves. Mari starts to chase him out, but stops in the lobby.
(The actor who plays Tae-seok, Sung Ji-ru, is generally good at playing the possessive, controlling manager — but he’s painfully over-the-top in this scene. Like, wincingly bad. He’s all insane tirades and pointy fingers — all he needs is some wire hangers to go full-on kitsch-crazy.)
So it’s with a little surprise that Mari receives Chul-soo’s visit at home afterward. Taken aback, Mari reminds him, “But we can’t meet anymore.”
Face grim, Chul-soo says, “I can’t do that.”
Eun-young’s reaction is interesting in that most of the time, the Romantic Obstacle in a kdrama is quick to jealousy and paranoid clinging, but she’s the opposite. She knows more than she lets on, and is overly understanding on the outside, while harboring a whole bevy of doubts on the inside. It’s almost like she’s trying to put herself in denial — she isn’t, but she really wishes she could be, so she does her best to convince herself of something she wants to believe (but doesn’t actually believe). I admit Eun-young’s almost scarier this way, because it shows that she’s tough, and may prove unexpectedly tenacious.
I’m not sure if Tae-seok is in love with Mari, or if he’s just exhibiting a sense of proprietorship like a fierce pimp with his most successful hooker. If he is in love with her, it’s a twisted kind of affection, kind of like how an abusive boyfriend/husband wields power over the battered woman but professes to do everything out of “love” for her. He’s like a deranged Henry Higgins, or the Phantom of the Opera doing everything he can to run off Raoul — partly because he loves her, and partly because he thinks he’s the only one who fully appreciates his muse’s talents. Either way: Cree-py!