Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 7
What makes this show fascinating for me isn’t really the melodrama, or even the romance — not that they are badly presented, as they aren’t — but the completeness of the characterizations. These people feel like real people, in that there are things you may like or hate about them but it’s difficult to peg them with simple explanations. There are multiple ways to read their motivations, and I think it’s okay if we disagree on how to read a particular character, because that’s the beauty of complex characterizations — all aspects of their personalities are so real that you can find multiple ways to interpret their behavior.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Dong-hee – “내일 다시 말해요” (Talk again tomorrow) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Dae-sung opens the door to Eun-jo’s hospital room just as she’s begging her mother to say that she likes Dae-sung. He overhears Kang-sook declare that she likes him because he has so much for her to take from him.
Kang-sook may be callous but she sees herself as a pragmatist, telling her daughter — while she swipes the hospital fridge’s beverages, in a nice juxtaposition — that she doesn’t know what it’s like to live the hard-knock life. But the sound of a door makes her look up — Eun-jo has left the room.
Eun-jo has caught a glimpse of Dae-sung watching from the hallway and sees him walking away with a weary gait, as though suffering from Kang-sook’s declaration. He walks numbly out of the hospital, and Eun-jo follows.
On the street, she tries to call out to him, but her voice is weak as she says, “Um, excuse me.” She calls out louder, and this time he turns, smiles weakly, and waves her along. Eun-jo follows anyway, a bit uncertain of what to do but not willing to leave.
Seeing that she won’t go, Dae-sung turns to tells her, to her shock, “It wasn’t something I didn’t know.” He asks her not to tell her mother that he overheard their conversation.
He continues on, but despite his words it seems that Kang-sook’s words have dealt him a heavy blow. There are two ways to read this scene — either he really did know the truth, or he is only saying this to mitigate Eun-jo’s pain. Personally I think it’s the latter, given how hard this scene has hit him, but perhaps it was always a thought that niggled on the verge of his subconscious, that needed this push to come out into awareness.
Ki-hoon and Hyo-sun sit in the parked car (following her “escape” from the hospital after yelling at her sister), and she tells him that she genuinely liked Eun-jo, “but how could she do this to me, oppa?”
As much as I can sympathize with Hyo-sun — she’s the displaced sister, the one who should be her father’s favorite but who feels shoved aside for her non-blood-related stepsister, even if it’s a consequence of her own frivolity of spirit — I do love Ki-hoon’s response, which is essentially a huge ol’ princess smackdown. He sternly tells her not to cry, and when she doesn’t, he bites out harshly to cut it out.
He takes issue with Hyo-sun’s charge that Eun-jo “stole” things from her, and gives her a rude awakening: “If you don’t want something taken from you, then get your act together and watch what’s yours.” Hyo-sun is stunned at his attitude, but he demands, “What, can’t I be angry? Do you think nobody can get angry at you? Does everyone have to coddle you, no matter what do? Are we only supposed to accept you, laugh for you, and clap for you?”
He asks what she has achieved on her own merit without relying on anyone else: “Eun-jo stole from you? You’ve never earned anything on your own strength so how can you have something stolen away?!”
Trembling, Hyo-sun contains her tears and glares indignantly, but Ki-hoon will not even let her get away with that: “What are you looking at? Why are you staring like that? Do you feel unfairly accused? Are you mad that I’m not taking your side? I’m not yours, you punk!”
Hyo-sun can’t help her tears and goes to him for a hug, but he pushes her away impatiently: “Your enemy isn’t Eun-jo. Make things on your own, and protect what you’ve made. If you get things stolen from you without doing that, there’s nothing you can say. Got it?”
He tells her not to rely on him — he won’t play that role. Impatient and frustrated, he growls, “Hurry up and grow up. Soon.”
He gets back in the car and tells her to get in, but she doesn’t. Not about to indulge her petulance today, he drives off.
Ah, Ki-hoon, you may just have redeemed yourself with that heavy dose of tough love! It’s pretty harsh, but honestly, Hyo-sun needs it, and badly. Furthermore, there’s nobody else from whom this speech would have this impact on her.
Eun-jo continues following Dae-sung, a few steps behind, all the way to the factory. He tells her to go rest, but she won’t — what she so sorely lacks in words she is trying to make up for, however inadequately, in actions. Although she’s not actually doing much, Eun-jo’s so defensive and closed off that her mere presence — and persistence — is hugely significant.
She asks how Dae-sung can be like this — calm, acting normally — when he knows the truth. He returns, “You mean even though I know that she’s with me so she can mooch from me?” He says it’s okay.
Eun-jo feels miserable merely knowing this, so she cannot understand Dae-sung’s attitude. He answers that he thinks of Kang-sook as someone to be pitied, because she can’t help thinking the way she does. When he first met Eun-jo as a young adolescent brought up under her mother’s way of thinking, she’d easily accused others of wanting something from her, thinking there was no other reason for them to approach her. He’d felt sorry for her, and says, “It doesn’t matter, since I like your mother. To me, it’s much better for me to be taken advantage of than to live without you and your mother.”
Eun-jo’s tears fall freely, and Dae-sung approaches to gently urge her home to rest. Or how about accompanying him to the company picnic?
He’s trying to turn her thoughts to happier things, but Eun-jo asks tearily, “What do I have to do?” He answers, “Don’t leave me.”
Company picnic. The men engage in a rousing game of… some mix of soccer, tennis, and volleyball. Among the players are Ki-hoon and Jung-woo, and when the ball goes out of bounds and rolls over to her, both jog over and extend their hands to her. Symbolism!
Eun-jo looks between them for a moment before making her choice: She tosses the ball past both, over to Dae-sung. Aw!!
Because the company is out enjoying their day, Hyo-sun finds herself home alone when several angry, unruly men arrive at the factory to complain about the spoiled makgulli they bought. She calls Eun-jo nervously to ask what to do — she’s been trying to handle this without depending on anyone (per Ki-hoon’s words) but she doesn’t know what to do.
Hyo-sun faces the men anxiously, and tastes the alcohol to find that it’s rancid. However, she says that it’s not their wine — the bottles are theirs, but the makgulli inside is definitely not, and she knows this because she’s practically been raised on the taste of their wine. Gaining confidence as she speaks, she informs them that company practice is to turn extra wine into vinegar rather than sell it, but the angry customers are hardly going to take her word for it. Hyo-sun asks in her cheery way, “Care to make a bet with me?”
Eun-jo, Dae-sung, and the rest hurry back to the factory, knowing that Hyo-sun is alone. But when they get there, to their surprise Hyo-sun is happily toasting the men with makgulli, the mood jovial, the men engaged in an energetic round of singing.
Hyo-sun gives the bad wine to her father, who tastes it to make sure. He passes the tainted bottle to Eun-jo, who also takes a sip and notes that it’s gone bad. Hyo-sun glares at her sister, saying that she’d already told them that — does Eun-jo not trust her? (Given that her father also took a sip and earned no ire, Hyo-sun is overreacting here. It’s understandable that she’s oversensitive after her smackdown by Ki-hoon, but this time Eun-jo hadn’t meant anything by her comment.)
Suddenly nervous, Hyo-sun’s uncle takes Jung-woo aside to warn him not to say a word. Since he’s an accomplice, he’d better keep his mouth shut!
We’ve seen the two of them driving off on mysterious errands, and now it becomes clear that it had something to do with this spoiled product. But Hyo-sun’s uncle is a sloppy saboteur at best (he’s no brilliant mastermind, that’s for sure), and now he’s scared he’ll get caught. Although Jung-woo hadn’t been in on the loop, the uncle’s panicked reaction now triggers his suspicions.
As the tainted makgulli has gone out for sale, the news breaks that the company has distributed product containing prohibited additives. Dae-sung and Eun-jo are questioned by police, where they defend their practices — unlike other companies, they don’t add preservatives and they make sure to pick up the unsold product the day before their expiry dates, but these days they haven’t even had any leftovers because of high sales. The factory has turned up no traces of those additives in the tainted bottles.
Dae-sung agrees to cooperate, saying that it’s all okay. However, Eun-jo grows indignant thinking of the business and how hard they worked to get things to this level. All orders have ceased and the factory has stopped production.
In the empty factory, Hyo-sun finds herself at a loss and asks plaintively:
Hyo-sun: “What do I have to do at a time like this? Oh, right — you told me not to rely on anybody. Am I not supposed to do anything in this situation? Am I not allowed to ask this? Is just asking also relying on someone? Okay, I won’t ask.”
As she turns to go, Ki-hoon says that it’s a good thing this happened before they increased production, which would have increased the recall. They can handle this. Hyo-sun asks, “You just said that the moon is a square, didn’t you?” His words have their usual calming effect and make her believe that maybe they’ll be fine.
Ki-hoon’s confidence in their recovery can be attributed to the fact that he believes this is the work of his father — that he somehow sabotaged the Dae-sung company to pave the way for takeover. But President Hong informs him that he has nothing to do with this, and neither does big brother Ki-jung.
Ki-hoon warns his father not to get any ideas of doing anything to Dae-sung Co. while it’s weak. Recall that Ki-hoon is supposedly working there for his father, and he wants control once Hong takes over. He says: “I won’t ruin the company or its image. I’ll take it, and I don’t want to take something that’s ruined.”
Ki-jung hears of this tete-a-tete between father and son, and guesses that Ki-hoon is working at Dae-sung under his father’s orders.
It is both hilarious and heartbreaking that Kang-sook slips into Eun-jo’s room that night to ask furtively whether there’s anything they can rescue before the company falls. She urges Eun-jo to secretly start stashing stuff that they can take before it all goes to ruins.
Eun-jo knows her mother is mercenary, but even so, she’s in disbelief at how low her mother can go and tells her, “We aren’t going to be ruined. And even if we are, there are lots of things for you to rip off. A ton. If you die, you’ll die of excess, not of starvation.” And like the silly, single-minded woman she is, Kang-sook is happy to hear this. Lee Mi-sook is so awesome, finding the dark edge of humor in such an extreme character.
Jung-woo finds himself conflicted with guilt, thinking back to the suspicious behavior of Hyo-sun’s uncle. As he broods, he spots Eun-jo through the window, grabs some clothes (he’s in his boxers) and hurries out to find her.
Eun-jo has paused to look up at the empty pavilion, recalling Ki-hoon singing the Spanish song from years ago, his voice ringing in her ears.
She continues walking — just as Jung-woo bursts out of his room and misses seeing her — and heads out the front gate, where she starts to hear Ki-hoon’s voice singing that song again.
Thinking it’s in her head, this makes her angry — until she sees him walking toward her, mumbling the song to himself. Again, these two are in tune with each other, even in their thoughts. Stopping still, they stare at each other for long moments. Then she resumes walking and he continues on as well, widening the gap between them.
Eun-jo takes refuge in the wine room, but today she’s not alone. Another voice calls out from behind a different set of jars — Hyo-sun.
Hyo-sun: “Let’s do it.”
Eun-jo: “What are you saying?”
Hyo-sun: “I won’t let you have everything. Once, I wanted to be like you. You studied hard, and you were smart and proud. And you acted like you didn’t need anyone. Arrogant, like you didn’t care if nobody looked at you. There were times you looked cool. But you always poured cold water over the things I longed for. So let’s have it out. I don’t know yet how, but let’s do it.”
(Her “Let’s do it” has the tone of a challenge, akin to saying, “Bring it on.”)
Jung-woo doesn’t know what the uncle has been up to, but he does know something’s fishy and heads back to the area where the uncle used to go on his shifty errands. He finds a shack in the woods, and brings back Ki-hoon and Dae-sung. Together, they break open the door, and find inside the materials for a sabotage operation. Makgulli was taken from the factory, mixed with bad liquor, then bottled in the Dae-sung bottles.
While Hyo-sun’s uncle is living it up, drinking with bar hostesses and frittering away his cash, the family gathers to discuss options. Eun-jo is focused on the business and their huge losses, wanting to report the uncle to the police so they can clear their name and begin recovery. Hyo-sun, on the other hand, refuses to call the cops on her mother’s brother, who has nowhere to go. (As so often happens in this family, even when the issue isn’t about the sisters’ strife, it becomes about it on a secondary level.)
Dae-sung decides to take their time — he wants to think of a way to save the business without sacrificing the uncle. Eun-jo presses him to reconsider, saying they have no time (which makes Hyo-sun glower at her resentfully), but Dae-sung overrules her. They can go slowly.
Eun-jo has to accept this reluctantly, but she balks at Ki-hoon’s suggestion that they take out a newspaper ad with an apology; her pride refuses to admit fault when they’d done nothing wrong. There are people just waiting for them to stumble or die so they can swoop in and take over at a low price!
He’s the optimist (saying that they can recover swiftly) while she’s the cynic (or shall we say realist?) for highlighting how precarious their situation is and how important it is to act with haste.
Ki-hoon demands to know what she means, pressing her for an explanation. Who wants to buy them up? He grabs her arm, at which point Jung-woo interferes and casts his arm off Eun-jo’s. Ki-hoon swats Jung-woo away like he’s a pesky fly, while Eun-jo storms away.
Already Dae-sung is fielding calls about selling the business, which stress him out. Hyo-sun wishes she could be a help to him, saying with some insecurity, “I want to help, but I’m not anything, am I?” Still, she promises that even if she’s not helpful now, she will become more helpful to him from now on.
He smiles affectionately, and this is the scene Eun-jo witnesses as she arrives at the door. Which Ki-hoon also sees.
In another family business meeting, Ki-hoon presents a new plan to go after the Japanese market, citing positive initial responses. Eun-jo offers to go to Japan on a business trip, to which Ki-hoon announces that he will go. Lest you get excited about them going together, he is proposing to go instead of Eun-jo — and he wants to take Hyo-sun with him.
In light of Ki-hoon’s harsh speech to her, Hyo-sun is just as startled as Eun-jo, but he replies that he’s teaching her how to keep what’s hers. “But you said Eun-jo didn’t take what was mine,” she says. He answers, “When someone — whether Eun-jo or anyone else — challenges you and tries to take something from you, you have to protect it.”
Eun-jo walks in on their cozy scene — it’s not really that cozy, but tell that to her icy stare — to deliver their travel documents. What’s amusing is how she then walks over a few feet and calls out to Jung-woo from outside his room. Dae-sung wants to see him so it’s not like she’s doing this on purpose, but I’m starting to get a kick out of every time she talks to him in Ki-hoon’s presence, ’cause Ki-hoon’s being pretty frustrating with his constant silence.
Jung-woo has his bag already packed, expecting to be kicked out for his part in the uncle’s operation. When she says they’ll be working together tomorrow to track down Hyo-sun’s uncle, an adorable smile spreads across his face as he fixates on the one word in that sentence that interests him: “T…together?”
Jung-woo is really adorable, the way he steals glances at Eun-jo in the car. Since she still has no idea who he is, she clocks his interest but keeps a cool attitude, while he tries to contain his feelings.
But finally even he can’t keep it to himself anymore, and as they stop for lunch, he steals the pickled radish from her and explains, “Way back when, there was this person who used to cut kimchi and I’d grab the kimchi like this, and the kimchi-cutter would hit me. I’m just saying.”
Eun-jo doesn’t react, so then he lapses into his rural dialect to remind her of his childhood words that he’d find her again — and finally she smiles, asking in half-disbelief, “You’re that Han Jung-woo?”
She asks why he didn’t say anything, so he says he was waiting until she recognized him. But she was taking her sweet old time, so he spilled the beans.
She says, “How could I know that that Jung-woo and this Jung-woo were the same?” He teases, “Since I’ve gotten hotter? I make your heart pound, don’t I?” (Ahhh, he’s so adorable!) She plays it off in her understated way, but she’s definitely glad to see him again and it’s lovely to finally see her smiling.
Alas, their trip turns out to be in vain, because the uncle has run from the motel where he was staying. They report this to Dae-sung — who is holding his chest, WHICH CANNOT BODE WELL. Dae-sung heard that the uncle was going to use his money from selling the bad liquor to buy some land, but he’d been scammed, and therefore ran away.
Kang-sook notices her husband’s grimace and urges him to rest, but he has a playdate with his son and insists on going out.
In Japan, Ki-hoon and Hyo-sun (who’s wearing an indecently short dress — I think she forgot the business part of business casual) prepare to meet their Japanese contacts. As fans of Korean dramas, the two Japanese businesswomen speak fluent Korean, and respond positively to their makgulli. Furthermore, they recognize Hyo-sun from the ad that was uploaded on Youtube. One of the women says that her son is a big fan, and makes a request — she’d love to invite her home to meet her son, who’d be impressed with his mom for knowing the CF girl. This is a surprise, but a good sign that the deal will go through.
On their way home, Jung-woo and Eun-jo pause for a break, whereupon Jung-woo hands over his bankbook — he’d scrimped up all his money from being in the Marines, and this is his whole life savings. She asks why he’s giving it to her, and he answers that he’d saved it specifically to give it to her. He asks, “If I said that I’d saved up my first salary, who do you think I should give it to?” (In Korea, children often give their first paycheck to their parents, or at least buy gifts using the first paycheck.)
This makes Eun-jo think of Mr. Jang, and she asks what he’s up to, but quickly rescinds her question, saying that she doesn’t want to know. But Jung-woo doesn’t know, either — he has been on his own since he was 18. Then he adds with a little smile, “To be accurate, I wasn’t alone — since I lived with you.” He means it earnestly, but she tells him not to joke. He lights up when she says she’ll accept his money — until she adds that she’ll return it when he marries.
And then, a horrible phone call.
In Japan, Ki-hoon awakens to frantic pounding on his door — Hyo-sun cries that her father collapsed.
The romance is taking a backseat in the recent episodes, which I don’t actually mind so much because we are exploring Eun-jo’s relationship with Dae-sung, which is just as touching (if not more). I particularly love the opening scene when she follows Dae-sung out of the hospital, wanting to talk to him but not knowing how to do it. So she just walks, following a few steps behind, not saying anything.
As we know, Eun-jo has never called anyone anything before, so when it’s her turn to reach out, it’s doubly difficult. Eun-jo hardly ever initiates contact, so it’s too much burden to reach out to a person AND decide which defining label to use with him — whether it’s “Father” or “Ki-joon” or “oppa.” (Note that this applies to people older than herself, because there’s no dilemma in deciding what to call someone younger than you; you just use their name.)
As for Ki-hoon…. phew. I’m frustrated with him, even as I want to love the character and make excuses for his behavior. Although he does get points for setting Hyo-sun straight. Eun-jo made her wonder about her empty motivations, and now Ki-hoon is forcing her to be independent. The ones who hurt us the most have the most power over us, and as we’ve seen in their youth Hyo-sun looked up to these two the most. They are therefore the ones with the most influence over her, even if they don’t want to be.
Sometimes you don’t know how you truly feel about something — maybe you’re ambivalent, or indecisive — but ever notice that once you hear an extreme opinion about it, your feelings often sharpen into focus? This seems to be Hyo-sun’s case — she has never been challenged, so she doesn’t really know what she thinks about something, and if she lives her life with somebody leading her all the time, she’ll never learn how she really feels. Now is her time to figure that out.
I sorta feel like the difference between Ki-hoon’s relationship with Eun-jo now and in their youth is because he’s just as wounded as she is, and just as invested. In their youth, she was the one who closed herself off to all pain and lashed out in self-defense, and because he was a warm older figure, he could reach out to her. Now he has returned jaded, hardened, and harboring his own set of issues, and now it’s like they are both too wounded to break through each other’s defenses. Meanwhile, Jung-woo doesn’t have that kind of outlook and he’s like a boisterous puppy dog who gets knocked over but bounces right back up.
As I mentioned up top, the complexity of this drama, and this episode in particular, really comes through in these characters. For instance, is Dae-sung really being honest when he confesses that he knew Kang-sook’s motives? And was Kang-sook 100% honest when she said so callously that she only liked Dae-sung because of what she could take from him? You could take their words at face value, but there’s enough depth of character there that one may wonder if the opposite is true. Kang-sook strikes me as the type of person who would say something for shock value, who would never in a million years say something so maudlin or earnest as “Yes, I have grown to love my husband.” Maybe she’s protecting herself, or preserving her image, or maybe it’s easier for her to believe she’s a golddigger, but there are signs that she does care for Dae-sung.
Ambiguity isn’t always a good thing — it can be downright maddening — but in this case, I think it adds to the discussion.