It’s a popular opinion, I know, but it has to be said: Moon Geun-young blows me away. She isn’t afraid to take Eun-jo to the darkest places, and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to her misplaced anger. She gets ugly and mean, and human, but then when she’s light, she becomes young, fragile, and incandescent. Eun-jo is by far the most complex character we’ve encountered in a long time, and Moon Geun-young makes us feel every shift in her character, from the heights of her first love to the depths of her loss.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Hyo-sun calls Eun-jo a beggar and tells her to get out of HER house. Eun-jo actually looks rather pleased that she was right about Hyo-sun all along. I think that Hyo-sun wasn’t really faking her fondness for Eun-jo; she’s just not used to not getting what she wants—she’s the ultimate princess. She’s spent her whole life being cooed over and adored; even her very stern father bends to her all-powerful pout-and-shake. So this is as much a revelation for her as it is for Eun-jo, that she could hate this much. Eun-jo’s actually taught her to get in touch with her anger (kind of like therapy in reverse).
Eun-jo turns right back at her and tells HER to get out. Ki-hoon comes in to witness. She says that even though she may hate it here, she’ll never leave just because Hyo-sun wants her to. She’ll only ever leave of her own accord. It’s like watching two dogs fight over territory, although we know it’s not so much the house as its inhabitants that they’re fighting over. Hyo-sun is taken aback at the response. Eun-jo walks out, and Hyo-sun runs after her. Heh, even in her anger, she still chases after her unni.
Ki-hoon sees the note from Dong-soo, and mutters, “Those little things, not studying when they should…” but then finds himself annoyed: who is this Dong-soo kid? He’s jealous! Of a high-schooler. It’s adorable.
Linchpin Dong-soo is down by the river, trying to work up the courage to talk to Eun-jo, but he hides when he sees Hyo-sun coming, and witnesses the sisters’ continued fight. Hyo-sun catches up to Eun-jo and screams if this is what she wanted, pulling out a handful of Eun-jo’s hair. Hyo-sun looks more surprised by what she’s done, but it’s too late…a hair-pulling, knock-down, drag-out fight ensues.
They roll around, yelling insults, yanking hair, and at one point Hyo-sun stops, noticing Eun-jo’s bleeding lip. Pausing out of genuine concern, she goes, “unni ya, you’re bleeding!” Eun-jo looks even more annoyed by Hyo-sun’s concern, and she tosses her aside and walks away.
Hyo-sun comes home crying at the top of her lungs, and this is why Eun-jo hates her—because she commands sole attention without even thinking about it. It’s just her way of life, to be the doted-on princess. It’s imbued in her upbringing, so it isn’t necessarily Hyo-sun’s fault, but it’s understandable why Eun-jo can’t roof with her sweetness. As I would say, she ain’t on my bus.
Kang-sook is in the middle of a phone call (from the drunken ajusshi, presumably) and she hangs up and rushes over to Hyo-sun, consoling her. Hyo-sun cries out, “I wish you never had Eun-jo!” Eun-jo, who hears this from her room, says to herself, “That’s what I’M saying.” Ha. And heartbreaking, all at the same time.
Dad comes in, angry and fired up about the commotion. He drags Hyo-sun to another room to punish her, yelling out for sticks. Mom goes straight to Eun-jo, asking her what she did this time to make Hyo-sun so upset, and yeah, is anyone confused about why Eun-jo is so angry? If your only family in the world, the one person who’s supposed to be on your side, repeatedly blamed you for Cinderella’s poor-me tears, you’d have a permanent scowl on your face too. Kang-sook can’t believe Eun-jo can’t handle (read: manipulate) such a simple little thing like Hyo-sun, while Eun-jo is angry at mom for only caring that the princess is crying.
Dad’s got them both kneeling in his office, old Korean style, as he says that until they get along, he’s not going to let them use separate rooms. The girls are NOT happy to hear this news. Ki-hoon brings in the requested sticks, and lingers, so Dad asks if he wants to be hit too. Ki-hoon gallantly asks if he can’t just try to talk to the girls himself, so Dad says, okay, you can be hit too; just wait over there. Heh. No one messes with Dae-sung when he’s on a righteous anger streak.
He brings out Hyo-sun first. He tells her to say she was wrong if she was wrong, and hits her once. She immediately cries uncle and yelps in pain, saying she was wrong, so very very wrong. Dae-sung sends her back to her spot. Next he calls out Eun-jo, who pulls down her socks and prepares for the coming pain. Dae-sung repeats the same option to Eun-jo to admit fault, and this time he hesitates, perhaps not wanting to inflict any more pain on this damaged girl. But he rules his house with an iron fist and must be fair, so he hits her.
We’ve come to expect Eun-jo’s reaction. She steels herself through the pain and doesn’t budge. Dad is startled, and doesn’t know whether to keep hitting her, but he continues, as Ki-hoon and Hyo-sun watch in pain, trying to intervene on her behalf.
Meanwhile Kang-sook is on the phone again with the drunk ajusshi. He’s singing to her, and I’m assuming she’s already tried hanging up on him. Jung-woo comes to the rescue yet again, this time with a frying pan to the head. He advises Kang-sook to change her phone number. I like this kid. I wish his grown-up version would stay pudgy and twangy, but I know that’s not going to be the case.
We go back to the caning session, and by the stacks of broken sticks and the gashes on Eun-jo’s legs, it seems they’ve been at it for quite some time now. Dae-sung is bewildered by the steeliness of this girl, but strangely, I wouldn’t want her any other way, even if it’s painful to watch her be so stubborn. Ki-hoon finally can’t take it anymore (aw for the loving oppa), and stops Dae-sung and does the patented manly wrist grab, taking Eun-jo out of the room.
Kang-sook comes in and finds Dae-sung defeated and exhausted, and Hyo-sun about to faint. What are you fainting over? Being pain-adjacent?
Ki-hoon brings Eun-jo to their wine cellar and paces around her going, “You…what kind of kid…your head is a rock, isn’t it? Stubborn fool. All it takes is just saying you were wrong, and you can’t even…” But he trails off as he looks down at her gashed legs. He tries to tend to her wound, but she doesn’t budge, and just sits there in silence. Ki-hoon gets frustrated, saying that if she were the type of person to listen to him, she wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.
He calls her “saek-gi” and “nohm” here, which are technically bad words, but also what guys who are really close call each other in jest. The only equivalent I can think of is girls today calling each other “bitch,” but in a non-hateful way, like “hey bitch!” or “love ya, bitch!” He’s sort of yelling at her, but he’s not calling her names out of spite; he’s more like a frustrated oppa.
Ki-hoon leaves to go get her medicine, and when she’s alone, Eun-jo hears a faint bubbling noise. She leans onto a large makgulli jar and presses her ear against it, listening to the rising bubbles. For whatever reason, for just a moment, the gurgling bubbles popping on the surface soothes her, and she leans in intently, as if listening for a secret message trapped inside. It’s as if her own anger and hatred has bubbled over and dissipated in the same way, rising to the top and then bursting at the surface.
She’s so enraptured that she doesn’t even notice that Ki-hoon has returned, using this opportunity to tend to her wounds. He tells her that it’s the sound the makgulli makes when it’s fermenting. He says that next time she should just run away instead of getting hit, since she’s such a pro at running away. He adds, “If you ever get hit again, you’re dead.” Aw, you’re cute when you’re trying to be tough.
Ki-hoon calls to her: “Eun-jo ya,” and when she doesn’t respond, again: “Eun-jo ya…you could give me a response…Eun-jo ya” And finally, she answers, uttering out a small “uh” as if speaking for the very first time. Ki-hoon: “Does is hurt?” Eun-jo: “uh.” (“Uh” is the Korean version of “yeah.”) Ki-hoon lights up at her responsiveness, having finally broken through a major wall.
Then in a little bit of the show’s patented whimsy, Eun-jo imagines herself and Ki-hoon floating away in a giant makgulli bubble, headed for the moon. Her voiceover shows the fundamental change in her: “My legs don’t hurt. They bleed, but they don’t hurt. Why, I don’t know. It’s just…my heart is soaring to the edge of the sky. I can even reach the moon.” The literal ride to the moon is a little cheesy, but the sentiment is innocent and beautiful.
Later that night Dae-sung feels terrible for the extent to which he punished Eun-jo, and comes into her room while she’s sleeping to tend to her wounds. Eun-jo is awake though, and she realizes his remorse and his care for her.
The next morning Eun-jo waits outside for Ki-hoon, and she launches right into an inquest. Who was the girl at the river, huh? Ki-hoon is taken aback. She asks again, fiercely, but almost too fiercely, as it gives her away. Ki-hoon breaks out in a smile as he realizes this is Eun-jo…being jealous!
He beams from ear to ear, even trying to contain his laughter when she death-rays him with her eyes, but he can’t help but find her adorable. He teases, “Did you come find me first thing in the morning to ask me that? Were you so curious that you couldn’t sleep a wink? Is that it?”
He goes into his room to grab the package that he received yesterday from the woman in question. He shows Eun-jo the contents, essentially a collection of his favorite albums and books. He excitedly starts to tell her about each one, but she’s not interested. He snaps at her to listen, and she snaps right back, “Who was the girl?” He answers that she’s the younger sister of a friend who was storing his stuff for him. Satisfied with that response, she gets up and walks out, leaving Ki-hoon flustered. He shouts after her, “Hey, what about you? Are you…are you really going to date that Dong-soo jerk?” HAHAHAHAHA.
She doesn’t even turn around to see his puppy face, all you’re-not-going-to-pass-me-up-for-that-pre-pubescent-kid-are-you? It slays me, the oppa-knows-best attitude followed by the 180-turn into “but…but…I’m cooler than Dong-soo, right?” It’s beyond cute.
The girls get ready for school, and Hyo-sun asks Eun-jo to pretend that they’re getting along in front of the parents in order to get their separate rooms. Eun-jo reluctantly agrees to do so. Hyo-sun sees Eun-jo’s scars on her legs, and even in their cold war, Hyo-sun gives her a pair of her new socks and runs off. Eun-jo, who’s so angry that she doesn’t even know why, can’t even accept the tiny gesture, and throws them on the ground.
Ki-hoon drives Kang-sook to the temple, while Dad eats breakfast with the girls. Hyo-sun uses this as an opportunity to apologize in front of Dad (making her much more like Kang-sook and speaks to their mutual kinship), and she has to prod Eun-jo to play along, kicking her under the table. Eun-jo concedes, and mutters out a half-hearted “No, I was wrong,” pleasing Hyo-sun and Dad very much.
Dae-sung sees Ki-hoon and wonders why he’s back at home so soon. Ki-hoon tells him that Kang-sook wouldn’t let him take her all the way to the temple, insisting on taking the train there herself. Dae-sung calls the priest on business, and asks him to send something by way of his wife, but finds out that she’s not there. We see that Kang-sook is on the train to somewhere, but it ain’t to pray.
Ki-hoon is busy studying Spanish, talking aloud to his computer that his student is such a quick study that he has to study extra hard just to keep up.
Later that day he has a visitor, and it turns out that the thug from the second episode really IS his half-brother. I know Ki-hoon called him hyung-nim the first time, but I just didn’t think he was from the same family as the oldest brother. How come one brother looks like a Kennedy and the other brother looks like a Kardashian?
Second brother, Hong Ki-tae, drives Ki-hoon somewhere, and recounts going with Dad to visit Ki-hoon and his mom at their house when they were kids. So we know they grew up in separate houses, for at least their childhoods, explaining the vast difference in, well, everything. It’s interesting though, that all three brothers, Ki-jung, Ki-tae, and Ki-hoon are named thusly, as most illegitimate children are not named in succession to their “rightful heir” siblings. At least that’s how it is in my family. But that’s a whole other can of worms.
Kang-sook returns home late that night, from nobody knows where, and Dae-sung is out waiting for her, hoping that she’ll explain herself. He asks where she was, but when she says “temple,” she can see it’s not the answer he wants. Ever quick on the uptake, Kang-sook immediately starts with the tears, making up an elaborate story about wanting to get Eun-jo some medicine for her injuries, so going to see her old herbalist, and not wanting Dae-sung to know because he’d feel guilty. Man, she should start an improv group.
Ki-tae drops off Ki-hoon at an office complex, where his evil stepmother and her lawyer are waiting for him with the contract to sign over his inheritance (including the all-important shares of the family company). She asks what his demands are, and he calmly replies that he wants half…of the company.
She scoffs, and offers to add another zero to the end of the sum (that they’re offering in exchange, I gather). That just makes Ki-hoon sneer. She even insults his dead mother, saying that she may have given birth to him with the intention of taking half the company, but he can’t have it.
That riles him up but good. They start a shouting match, as much as Korean WASPy types shout. Then Ki-hoon offers to bring his lawyer next time, as he has no intention of signing over his inheritance under duress, referring to the army of suits waiting outside. What are they, expecting a battle royale? There’s enough minions out there to take on Batman. He makes threats of his own, saying that unless they plan on making sure he’s dead, they shouldn’t bother laying a finger on him. He leaves and calls his father right away, asking how he can help. Time to take down the evil stepmonster.
One other tidbit that we learn here is that the Hong company has the suffix “Ju” which means alcohol. So I’m assuming that the family company also deals in liquor, and that his brothers’ distaste for Ki-hoon’s place of employment is not about the backwoods country, but about his working for a competitor in their market.
At Dae-sung’s makgulli company, it’s the season for a new batch to be made, and I’m totally enraptured by the procedure of making rice cakes and preparing them for the wine-making process. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon the Food Network or the History Channel; I could watch this for hours. Dae-sung leads a prayer ceremony to get things off on the right foot, and all are present for the big event.
Ki-hoon and Eun-jo use the opportunity to make eyes at each other, but this time Ki-hoon looks at her sadly and longingly. Hyo-sun notices their mutual attraction yet again, and her face falls.
At school Eun-jo is presented with the First Place Academic award, while at the same time Hyo-sun has just completed her dance competition and done very poorly. Mom and Dad are present for Hyo-sun’s performance, and console her, as she is very upset not to have won first place. See what I mean? It’s her basic sense of entitlement that irks the likes of Eun-jo.
Eun-jo practically runs home with her award on her back, excited to show her family, or perhaps at least Dad, who despite his sternness has always supported her academically. But she arrives home to find the entire household a rapt audience for Hyo-sun, performing a repeat dance recital (no doubt orchestrated by her enabling parents to fulfill her need for acceptance).
In voiceover, Eun-jo says, “It doesn’t matter. I only wanted to be praised by one person.”
She taps Ki-hoon on the arm and tells him to meet her “there.” He finds her in their wine cellar, where she silently presents her award to him. She contains her excitement in her Eun-jo-esque way, but her eyes reveal her anticipation of Ki-hoon’s approval. He opens it, and beams with pride: “You did well. You did really really well!” He calls her Eun-jo ya, and tousles her hair and pats her on the head affectionately. She basks in his praise and warm affection, to the soundtrack of fermenting wine, bubbling over like the love in her heart.
Ki-hoon wants to give her a present for the good job she’s done, so he brings her to his room and gives her one of the contents from his favorite stuff collection. He gives her an old fountain pen, wrapped in a cloth case. He says it’s probably older than her, and that he’s broken it in over the years. He tells her, “Use it to write letters, and journals, and whenever you hold it in your hand…think of me.” Well, there goes my heart, floating away on a cloud.
And then…she SMILES at him. Not, you know, a full-on bleeding heart smile, mind you. This is Eun-jo we’re talking about. Just a glint in her eye, but that’s all it takes. She’s come miles, and he knows it.
Eun-jo gets up to leave, and when she opens the door, Hyo-sun is looming just outside, sulking. She demands angrily why she doesn’t get one, why she went out on a dance competition, and Eun-jo’s the only one to get a present. She cries, “Did you forget? Don’t you know who you belong to?” Both Ki-hoon and Eun-jo just look back at her silently. Eun-jo may have yielded her mother’s love, and everyone’s undivided attention to Hyo-sun’s inherent selfishness, but she’s not about to give up Ki-hoon.
That night Hyo-sun sulks in bed, while Eun-jo stays up and takes out her fountain pen. She carefully fills it up with ink, and on a blank page, writes: “Eun-jo ya” as we hear Ki-hoon’s voice calling her in her memory.
The next morning, Dae-sung greets Eun-jo outside, and she tells him that one of the jars of makgulli in the cellar is ruined. Surprised, he asks how she would know such a thing. She replies that there’s no sound coming from that one. Dae-sung is impressed, and promises to check it out.
Just then, Hyo-sun comes back, dejected and dragging her feet. Dad asks, “Did Ki-hoon leave okay?” Startled, Eun-jo turns around, wondering what that meant. She follows Hyo-sun back into their room and demands to know where Ki-hoon went. At first Hyo-sun refuses to answer out of spite, but once their shouting brings Dad into the room, she yields, and drops the bomb…Ki-hoon has left for the army.
Eun-jo runs to his room, their wine cellar, the yard, finding all of them empty. She races down to the river, but there’s no sign of him. At home, Hyo-sun cries, and pulls out a letter. We see in flashback that Ki-hoon gave her the letter, asking her to give it to Eun-jo. Stupid, stupid man! Were you born yesterday? Doth ye not own a television? Or read any Shakespeare?
She opens the letter, but it’s written in Spanish, so she can’t decipher it. From the few words that I can see, and from my very limited vocabulary, I can make out the following words: “Dear Eun-jo…I go because I think my father needs me…Now I go alone. Later I will take you…to the moon and the stars…..Wait for me at home…” I can’t make out the rest or the words or phrases in between (maybe a native speaker can do a better job?) but that’s a little of what Ki-hoon wanted to say to her.
Eun-jo rushes to the bus station, where the soldiers are leaving for the army. But Ki-hoon isn’t there, you see, because he’s not going to the army. He’s got a family turf war, and his vote’s the one to tip the scales.
He looks back before boarding the train, as he thinks, “Will you…stop me? Even when blood gushes from your knee, you’re unable to cry, just like stupid Hong-Ki-hoon. Eun-jo ya. If you hold me, I think I could stop here. Before I get on the train, stop me. Eun-jo ya.” But she doesn’t come, and he slowly lifts his foot off the platform with one last look, and leaves on the train.
Eun-jo goes down to the sandy bank, and crumples to the ground. Her tears come crashing down in a wave, as she lets all the years of pain and anger flow out of her like an endless ocean held in by a tiny dam. The tears pour out of her small, fragile body, and she clutches her heart, as if knowing it was there for the first time. She cries out, “Eun-jo ya…Eun-jo ya” over and over again, searching for the sounds, as she has been silent for so long. She cries from the depths of her soul, letting go of her tough façade and being, for one brief moment, just a young girl in love with a boy.
It is achingly beautiful and although a heartrending moment for Eun-jo, it is, in fact her breakthrough as a person. As she cries, we hear in voiceover: “That person…I’ve never called him anything before. So, just like a cuckoo bird cries, ‘cuckoo, cuckoo,’ like a bird, I called out my own name as I cried.” The camera pans down and we see that Ki-hoon’s glass hairpin is lying in the sand just behind her; the gift thwarted for the love thwarted.
And then we pick up…eight years later. If you mess this up, we will have words, Show. Don’t do me wrong now. Not after that last scene.
We’re in Seoul, and GU Eun-jo, as her nametag reads, is giving a presentation for her makgulli company, outlining new trends and ways to market their product, as well as their all-natural approach to production, as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. Basically she’s confident, smiling, well-spoken, and no longer the bottled-up young girl of old.
Outside the office building, she looks across the street and sees a sign for an art exhibit, featuring Ki-hoon’s favorite artist, which he mentioned for a split second when showing her his favorite things. She can’t help but feel drawn to it, so she goes inside.
She looks at the paintings, and Hyo-sun appears next to her, having come to the exhibit after hearing about it from Ki-hoon. Eun-jo asks what she means, and Hyo-sun baits her, “Didn’t you know? Ki-hoon oppa and I are dating.”
NO! Take it back!
I guarantee she’s lying. Okay, I’m 99% sure she has to be lying. Right? Someone pat me on the head and reassure me, right now!
I wanted to spend longer in the teenage phase, and honestly, I could have done with the entire drama being set in that stage of the girls’ lives, but I’m not the conductor of this train, so I’ll just sit back and see where this takes us. While it’s satisfying to see Eun-jo take on her stepfather’s surname and work for the company as a successful and confident young woman, the journey of how she got there interests me more than how great she turned out. I’m sure there will be much more conflict and hard times ahead, so I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but I already miss the wounded, misunderstood teenager who was experiencing love for the first time.
I don’t know the actresses’ respective ages, but I have to say, Seo Woo is far better suited as the older version of Hyo-sun, while Moon Geun-young seems better suited for the younger Eun-jo. Both actresses are amazing, of course, so I have no doubt we’ll be enraptured by their dynamics at any age, even if they’re still fighting over Ki-hoon at 80.
What I love about this drama so far is that it’s epic, not in scope, but in making the tiny moments monumental. It makes mountains out of molehills, essentially drawing us into quiet character moments that become increasingly significant the longer we spend with them. Eun-jo’s anger, her quiet resolve, and finally her cascade of tears become revelations that plant her firmly in our hearts. Now we are with her, and there’s no turning back.
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- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 1
- Cinderella, Prosecutor, Taste: First episode impressions
- Cinderella’s Sister releases its music video