Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 11
How far these two have come, right? I wish it had come a little earlier, because the shouting and fighting has been getting tiresome for a while now. This drama surely has enough dramatic territory to mine without worrying that a détente between the sisters would detract from the tension when in fact it reinvigorates the story, like a cool wind blowing in on a high-pressure heat wave.
SONG OF THE DAY
Yiruma – “나에게로 (To My Heart)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Eun-jo breaks down in tears as she makes her wine offering to Dae-sung, finally using the word “appa” (Dad) and begging for his forgiveness.
Just outside the room, Ki-hoon hears her sobs, her emotion stirring his. So loud is her grief — finally given an outlet — that Jung-woo is able to hear her cries from outside, and it brings tears to both of their eyes.
Hyo-sun sits in the dark cellar, recalling Eun-jo’s taunt that she has succeeded with the yeast and therefore swooped in as savior.
She walks through the house slowly, surveying the surroundings. I suspect she is thinking how this all may be taken away if Eun-jo’s warnings come to pass and she is ejected by her mother.
Late that night, Jung-woo calls Eun-jo out — he’s leaving temporarily to train with the reserve forces. He figures this is a good time to go, since there’s no work for him at the factory anyway. Eun-jo tells him to be careful, and turns to go back inside.
Hilariously, Jung-woo hurriedly detains her — he’s been fumbling for an opening and jumps to say his piece before she leaves. He whips out a jewelry box and opens it to offer her the decorative pin inside, shaped like a crown, which he fastens on her shirt.
Jung-woo tells her to wear it while he’s gone, calling the pin “bread,” which is an offbeat and random comparison. He explains that wearing it will keep her from starving, which he means in a metaphorical sense as the pin will “protect” her.
Eun-jo lets out a small smile, and tells him, “Strangely, I want to believe those ridiculous, stupid words.” He tells her to take care, then heads out.
That softer attitude is still in evidence the next morning, when Eun-jo asks Hyo-sun if she knows where all the former workers live. Eun-jo is ready to reach out to them, and she waits while Hyo-sun goes in to speak with each of the ajusshis. Unfortunately, Hyo-sun reports that they are so affronted with Eun-jo’s behavior that they refuse to come back.
Here I’ll diverge from girlfriday’s comment in the previous recap about cutting Eun-jo some slack for her outburst to the men in light of her grief; I suppose you can label me the less sympathetic one, although I don’t think my comments have been unreasonably hard on Eun-jo. I think anybody who has suffered a huge trauma or is undergoing severe stress gets a general pass for temporary awful behavior, because pain and grief can spur us to some ugly places. But these men are not reacting to her momentary outburst — at least, not the words alone. They’re offended at what they have suspected all along, that Eun-jo views them as price tags, as animals to boss around and sneer upon. Yes, she is grieving, but her words wouldn’t have such a sting if that dictatorial tirade weren’t in line with the high-handed way has always treated them. And that lack of basic human respect is why they refuse to come back. (Note: I don’t mean that this is actually how Eun-jo sees them, but these men have no reason to cut her slack as Dae-sung or Ki-hoon do, and are judging based on what they see.) Until she can prove to them that she DOESN’T think of them in such a demeaning way, they see no reason to return.
Hyo-sun agrees with me, and calls Eun-jo out for only seeing those men as yeast-makers: “Do you know that the ajusshi who lives here is the father of our high school classmate Dong-soo?” We can see from Eun-jo’s reaction that she didn’t know, nor did she know that his grandmother is ill, and that his father always struggled financially to buy her medicine. Or that Dae-sung had given him extra work and paid him more because of his situation. Hyo-sun wonders how horrible Eun-jo’s actions must have been for that man — who needs money so badly — to refuse to return.
Eun-jo bears Hyo-sun’s reproof surprisingly well, keeping her head down and feeling some of the shame she hadn’t felt before. Hyo-sun tells her to give up thoughts of threatening the man into returning; she’ll ask her uncle to persuade them, as he is friendly with them. And if he can’t, Hyo-sun suggests gently that they handle the business as best they can among themselves.
I don’t think Hyo-sun expects Eun-jo to bend very much, but on the contrary, Eun-jo asks Hyo-sun to fill her in on everybody’s backgrounds. With that information, Eun-jo goes around offering small tokens according to the men’s preferences (sweets for one man, beef for another, tonic for the grandmother). Rather than trying to persuade them to come back to work, she simply gives her gifts, says she was wrong, and bows respectfully.
Ah, now this is an example of supplicating the Korean way. Humility toward her elders does more to mollify them than anything else she could have tried.
It’s a HUGE relief to see these sisters interacting without glaring, spitting, and hissing. On their way home, Hyo-sun has one thing to ask: What is she to Eun-jo? She wants to know for sure what Eun-jo thinks of her. Eun-jo eyes her warily, and returns the question by asking what Hyo-sun thinks of her.
Hyo-sun asks, a little scared, “Are you going to leave me?” Eun-jo isn’t the type to open herself up to possible hurt without first seeing if it’s worth the risk, so she asks, “Are you worried I’ll leave?”
But Hyo-sun would rather have her question answered first, and asks it again. All this constant fighting is exhausting, and she asks her sister if they can just act, however briefly, like they’re on good terms. Can’t she promise she won’t leave?
Hyo-sun: “I wish someone would hold me, but Mom has changed and I’m so lonely. I think it’s because the shock was really big for Mom, and things will improve with time. If I don’t think that, I’ll go crazy.”
Hyo-sun says pleadingly that she wants her relationship with Eun-jo to be warmer, for them not to clash all the time. For once, Eun-jo’s prickliness doesn’t get in the way of her true intentions, and she offers to give it a try. She clarifies that she’s not promising to be warm, but she will at least try not to oppose her.
Even that much is a huge gesture, and Hyo-sun is moved. It’s enough encouragement for Hyo-sun to link arms with her sister, and although Eun-jo quickly unlinks them, she doesn’t do it meanly.
Ki-hoon goes to the temple to beg for salvation, burdened by his sin against Dae-sung and the two sisters. The monk advises him to bow in prayer, and so he does — over and over, in endless repetition.
As he does, he thinks back to the day Dae-sung collapsed, when Ki-hoon had cried in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, begging Dae-sung not to die. His narration tells us, “However…”
“…even in that moment, I came first. I was begging that I wouldn’t commit a sin. The worry wasn’t for the man who was leaving.”
Briefly, Dae-sung had opened his eyes, and eked out his last words. Ki-hoon recalls in an anguished voice, “And even then — good lord — he said that it was okay.”
Now, Ki-hoon falls heavily, sweating and exhausted. He’s in pain from the hours of repetition, and with shaking limbs he gets back up and brings his hands back together in prayer. He asks bitterly, “How could he say it was okay? How?”
At night, Hyo-sun and Eun-jo brush their teeth in the bathroom, a bit uncertain with their tentative truce hanging in the air. Even when they accidentally bump heads when they both try to use the sink at the same time, they just eye each other warily, not wanting to break the peace.
Eun-jo looks in on the room shared by the two men; since she knows Jung-woo is gone, she’s clearly looking for Ki-hoon. Her face betrays her disappointment to find it empty (though I wonder what she would have said if he were there!).
At the moment he is slowly making his way home, his muscles rebelling from his day of repentance. He stumbles along, leaning heavily against the wall for support, when the sound of the creaking gate gets his attention. When he turns his head toward the noise, it’s the teenaged Eun-jo he sees. He envisions her as she did that long-ago night when he’d come home drunk and she had waited for him.
Again these two are on the same wavelength; her eyes likewise see the younger Ki-hoon, smiling at her just like he did on that night. She thinks (as she did back then), “He’s here. He’s smiling.” And Ki-hoon thinks, “She came out.”
His mouth upturns in the barest of smiles, and although he can’t quite wave to her as he did years ago, his fingers curl as though wanting to. Both his smile and wave are smaller gestures now than they were then, tempered by time and experience and pain, but no less meaningful.
While previously he had gestured her toward himself, now he only thinks, “Come here.” But she can’t hear his thoughts and turns to go back inside, so he blurts, “Come here,” stopping her.
He reaches out a hand to her, but that upsets his balance and he topples to the ground. Eun-jo races to him and helps him halfway up, though she removes her hand quickly.
As they crouch there together, kneeling on the ground, he says, “Eun-jo ya.” The words haven’t lost their effect on her, and bring tears to her eyes. With a pained expression, Ki-hoon tells her, “Now, I really can’t go to you. Things have made it so I can’t go to you.” Ah, finally a confession, and it comes by way of a rejection — how like this drama!
He continues: “I can’t go to you, but… but if you allow it, I… I’ll look after you two, as though bowing to you several thousand times a day. Like ajusshi. In his place.”
Eun-jo feels pain at his admission, her voice soft as she answers, “I never asked you to come to me. Because I never told you to come, I won’t ask why you can’t. I can’t understand why you would try to act in his place, but I won’t ask.”
She tells him not to do that for her, but to do so for Hyo-sun. She confesses that she has decided to stop being so mean to her sister, even though it’s not because she cares for her (so she says): “If I treat her warmly, I may be able to receive forgiveness, even just a little. If it’s possible, I want to give it a try. I really want to be forgiven.”
He thinks, “Yes, me too.”
As usual, Eun-jo keeps her composure until she retreats to her room, where she sobs alone.
Ki-hoon narrates, “And so that day, that awful girl cried for us for the last time.” And he does the same. (Why do I find this hard to believe? Just one episode without every main character crying — is that too much to ask?)
Kang-sook has difficulty sleeping, thumping her chest in annoyance at the suffocated feeling that keeps her awake. Perchance it is her conscience, but Kang-sook would never entertain that idea, and thinks it’s something physical.
Hyo-sun wakes up crying out for her father, and makes her way to Kang-sook’s room. She approaches quietly and lies down beside her, then tentatively lifts her arm to lay it across her mother’s stomach. For a moment you think Kang-sook will allow it, but she tells Hyo-sun to take her hand away, calling it disgusting. Understanding that she has been rejected, Hyo-sun gets up and leaves the room without a word.
At breakfast, Eun-jo wonders why her mother has only set the table for three places, appalled to hear that Hyo-sun has been told to eat by herself. Kang-sook blames her suffocated feeling on the aggravation of sharing her table with Hyo-sun, defending her choice by saying she’s not starving the girl. She just doesn’t want to eat with her.
Eun-jo asks her mother, “How many more sins do you want to commit?” Trying to get through to Kang-sook, she says she’s afraid that in a next life, she’ll be born as Hyo-sun’s mother — it’ll be her punishment for sinning so much in this life.
Leaving the table without eating, Eun-jo runs into Ki-hoon outside, who smiles at her, a touch of his old warmth back. She tells him to find Hyo-sun and make sure she eats breakfast, and to bring her to the winery.
There’s an aww moment when we next see the three sitting together in the winery as the former kitchen ajummas serve them breakfast. Kang-sook has driven them from her presence (either literally as with Hyo-sun, or indirectly as with Eun-jo), but it’s touching to see them come together, even if it’s ostensibly for work reasons.
They discuss business matters such as the problem of how to repay their elders. Ki-hoon instructs Hyo-sun to meet with them again, and tells her to be sure to tell them that her sister was able to reproduce her father’s makgulli exactly. Perhaps he’s not purposely being diplomatic (the decision is a logical one, regardless of diplomacy), but a nice effect of this is that both sisters are necessary components to the plan, and both contribute their strengths while the other makes up for what they lack. This is an example of what I think we’ve always wanted to see from these two — they can so easily bring out the worst in each other, but there is the potential for them to be complementary if they wanted to be.
With that decided, Eun-jo suggests they all eat breakfast. Hyo-sun proposes that they make bibimbap — which is, on a superficial level, a tasty thing to do with side dishes, but also a symbolic gesture. Bibimbap is a way of sharing their breakfast equally, since they mix all the ingredients together and then eat out of the same bowl.
When Ki-hoon moves to add more gochujang (hot paste), Eun-jo blocks him. (Ah, there IS that drawback of sharing bibimbap — everyone’s spiciness levels must be in accord!) Hyo-sun shoves his spoon in Ki-hoon’s mouth (eliciting a smile from Eun-jo), then moves to feed Eun-jo the next spoonful. It seems Eun-jo won’t eat it so Hyo-sun starts to take the spoon away, but Eun-jo grabs the spoon back and takes the bite. She even moves to wipe some food from Hyo-sun’s chin, although she doesn’t actually make contact because their attention is diverted by the sound of men’s voices outside.
The three look out in surprise; the noise comes from the chatter of the factory ajusshis on their way back to work. One of the men eats one of the candies Eun-jo had given him and smiles at her; she bows to them in return. Hyo-sun is more expressive, and thanks her uncle in particular, who had a key role in convincing them to come back. The leader tells Eun-jo gruffly that this isn’t the result of her bribe; they’re not people to be so easily bought. They returned because she apologized. Eun-jo nods respectfully, grateful and relieved.
This is the thing about Korean ajusshis and ajummas (many of them, not all) — if you disrespect them they will bear that grudge for ages and teach it to their children and their children’s children. But if you humble yourself and earn that respect back, that’s all water under the bridge.
Ki-hoon puts a hand on her shoulder in approval. Hyo-sun turns back to see this moment, but rather than making a big fuss, she takes a moment to gather herself and puts on a rueful smile. She approaches them to get back to business — now they can start making yeast again, but who will preside over the ceremonial rites?
Ki-jung visits his father to discuss Ki-hoon’s lack of response regarding the scam with the Japanese exports. President Hong asks sardonically, “Do you think we’re on the same side?” Ki-jung answers that Ki-hoon probably thinks he can’t reveal the truth to Eun-jo and Hyo-sun when he’s the half-brother of the culprit. Although Ki-jung had prepared for a legal battle, he may not need to now.
President Hong hints that Ki-jung must have come for a different reason, and Ki-jung’s expression darkens as he glares. He says, “Father, you’re a truly bad person.” And then, betraying the first hint of emotion we’ve seen from him, he says that he had felt anguished when Ki-hoon’s mother chased him and collapsed, and later died. But Hong used that to provoke Ki-hoon? With an edge in his voice, he tells his father darkly, “I respect you. I’ll become bad, too. I’m curious to see how bad I can become.” Aie, I’m not! Also: Does this mean that Papa Hong is the ultimate baddie after all, and not Ki-jung? Also again: If only dads weren’t such assholes to their children, so many Korean dramas would lose their raison d’être.
The workers gather to discuss who will take Dae-sung’s place in the ceremonial rites. Ki-hoon makes a few suggestions which seem more diplomatic than anything, as both the leader and Hyo-sun’s uncle are flattered to come up as possibilities. He asks Hyo-sun to name the person, feeling she is the most appropriate person to decide, and gives her a day to think about it.
Hyo-sun is ready now, and after gaining everyone’s agreement to abide by her decision, she names Eun-jo.
Eun-jo protests, arguing that she can’t dare take Dae-sung’s place in this, the winery’s most important activity.
Hyo-sun agrees that she doesn’t like the idea of somebody taking her father’s place, but she thinks her father would want Eun-jo to do it. She adds ruefully, “Saying this makes me feel wronged too, you know — why it’s you and not me.”
Ki-hoon applauds the selection, and the others join in.
Hyo-sun’s uncle waits till afterward to talk to Eun-jo, beating around the bush before getting to his point. He reminds her that he was quite important in bringing the workers back, as though to defend his worth. Her mother keeps pressuring him to leave, but he has nowhere to go and has lived here his whole life.
Eun-jo hadn’t known this and tells him he doesn’t have to leave, which surprises him — he’d been preparing to argue his point. She says she’ll have a talk with her mother, and even corrects herself by using the polite version of “I” (she starts by using the casual form, then switches to the polite, as she did back with Dae-sung when he had admonished her to respect her elders).
Entering the house, Eun-jo hears a crash of dishware and her mother yelling. In her mother’s bedroom, Kang-sook berates Hyo-sun, who kneels to pick up the broken cup. Trying not to act upset (but clearly shaken), Hyo-sun explains that since Mom has been complaining of feeling suffocated, she’d brought her some tea. As she picks up the pieces, Kang-sook yells shrilly, “Get out right now! I can’t stand the sight of you!”
Eun-jo glares at her mother, then orders Hyo-sun to stand and follow her out. She calls Ki-hoon to instruct him not to go to sleep yet, as she’ll be sending Hyo-sun to him. She tells him to wait outside and be ready to comfort her.
Eun-jo asks why Hyo-sun keeps going to Mom foolishly. Hyo-sun says that she misses her, and thinks of how Mom used to pat her hair and comfort her in the past: “Mom’s being like that because she’s lonely, and I’m lonely too. So I think it would be good to be together, and even if she hates me for a while right now, I think maybe if she keeps seeing me, she’ll start treating me well.”
Sick with pity, Eun-jo asks, “Are you dumb?” She tells Hyo-sun to avoid Kang-sook for “a little while.” Hyo-sun can eat breakfast with Eun-jo at the winery and come home late, and “soon, things might get better.” Of course, Eun-jo knows they probably won’t, but she also knows that’s not the way to convince Hyo-sun.
But Hyo-sun doesn’t believe that and asks, “Am I a child?” To Eun-jo’s shock, Hyo-sun tells her that se started to catch on years ago — she could tell Kang-sook was different when Dae-sung wasn’t around. “I knew, but it didn’t matter… If I like her, it doesn’t matter.”
The words hit Eun-jo hard, because not only is Hyo-sun not the silly idiot she’d pegged her for, her words are exactly the same as Dae-sung’s when he’d told her he knew the truth of Kang-sook’s character. Hyo-sun adds that it’s okay if things never improve — it’s okay if she’s hated forever: “It’s okay as long as you don’t kick me out, or run away with Mom. Without you, Mom, or Jun-su, I’d really be alone.”
Eun-jo looks lost, tears streaming down her face. Hyo-sun approaches her and requests, “Just don’t leave me.” Which is, of course, another direct echo of her father.
Throughout this conversation, Hyo-sun has maintained a calm demeanor — it’s Eun-jo who is badly shaken — and she leaves the room calmly. But once outside, she starts to breathe heavily, falling to the ground and beating her hurting heart.
Eun-jo goes to her mother to ask — beg, even — that she treat Hyo-sun better. Her tone is imploring, but Mom neither notices nor cares, assuming that Hyo-sun asked Eun-jo to say that.
Eun-jo tells her they wouldn’t be good enough even if they bowed at Hyo-sun’s feet every day, begging her to understand: “Hyo-sun is her father. Do you really think he didn’t know anything?” He knew she was acting the whole time — and he loved her anyway, even though Kang-sook is someone for whom “hell would be too good.” And just like her father, Hyo-sun also said that it’s okay if Kang-sook doesn’t love her back.
Kang-sook goes about her toilette coolly, not even caring. When Eun-jo bursts out that you can’t find people like them in the world (meaning that they’re exceptionally good people), Kang-sook retorts, “I know, how stupid are they?”
Eun-jo sobs, “Mom, we can’t be like this! If we are, we’re not even human! I beg you, change your heart. If we don’t, I really think we’ll be struck by lightning!” Kang-sook yells back that they wouldn’t — who are they to send punishment their way? She mutters that she’s just holding out to send Hyo-sun off in marriage, when she can be rid of her.
Her mother’s callousness drives Eun-jo to desperation, and she starts pulling clothes out of her mother’s dresser. They’re only going to bring ruin to this house and must run away: “We can’t be in this house.”
Kang-sook grabs Eun-jo’s hands and gives her a fierce no — why should they leave? The three of them put together outweigh Hyo-sun’s inheritance. They will stay put and grab what they can!
Just as she had done when Kang-sook had been so flippant about “ripping off” Dae-sung, Eun-jo lets out a terrible, frustrated scream. Kang-sook tries to muffle her and warns her to come to her senses.
Eun-jo walks out into the courtyard a dull daze, sobbing. Ki-hoon is outside waiting as instructed; told to comfort Hyo-sun, he is here to comfort her instead.
Concerned, he asks what’s wrong. Between sobs, Eun-jo begs him to take her somewhere far so she can run away. It’s okay if she doesn’t get her forgiveness. No — forgiveness is out of her reach. “So let’s run away. Run away with me.”
Finally we see some development in these characters, and it comes not a moment too soon. Quite the contrary.
One of this drama’s strengths is in its complex, nuanced characterizations, and I applaud that. Despite my frustrations in my last recap, I’ve always appreciated that nobody’s an outright hero or villain. Even Eun-jo. Girlfriday used the word “villain” to describe Eun-jo in the last recap (perhaps lightly), but I don’t see her as one. We’ve seen so many hints of her inner softie that it’s clear she doesn’t actually hate her sister, although she may fiercely resent her at times. But while you get credit for having good intentions, those intentions don’t replace — or equal — actions. And for ten episodes we saw her intentions remaining shut up inside her, such as with her imagined embrace of Hyo-sun in the last episode. She gets some credit for wanting to comfort her sister, but ultimately that remains locked up in her head and her sister doesn’t know this. Only Dae-sung’s saintly good heart was willing to push through her outer bad behavior to see the good intentions behind them.
As girlfriday noted, this drama has been pretty slow on plot, and I’ll add that it’s been slow on character growth too. It’s great for them to explore these dynamics in such depth, but after a while you just need some progress.
Which is why it’s a grand relief to see them moving forward in this episode — Eun-jo’s outpouring of grief releases her pent-up aggression, and after that bit of catharsis she is able to be less hostile. Not warm, as she warns Hyo-sun, but at least no longer antagonistic. Here she gets credit for intentions AND actions. She’s even able to show her tears to Ki-hoon and Hyo-sun, which is almost as big as declaring she will stop being so mean, because baring weakness is just as hard (if not harder) for her than extending kindness.
As for Kang-sook, frankly I’m loving her (as a character, not as a person). I love how Lee Mi-sook plays her, and even though she says and does some horrible things, the drama has made an effort to portray her as a complex person, not just stock villain. This is one side of the fairy tale that rarely, if ever, gets explored — Cinderella stories always start with the stepmother already evil, and we are just to accept that about her. Other twists on the tale have given the stepsister a deeper look, but never the mother.
I puzzled over her sudden attitude switch, wanting to understand beyond simply “She turns evil because she’s always been evil.” I know that her nice persona was an act, and that she felt suffocated by it enough to keep meeting with Jang ajusshi, with whom she could be her crude, selfish self. But I’m convinced she cared for Dae-sung, maybe even loved him a little, even if I doubt she’d ever admit it to anyone — or even herself. I suspect she told herself it was all an act, but perhaps a small (tiny, minuscule) part of her wanted to be the wife he thought she was. After all, when he married her, she rejoiced at finally getting that stamp of approval as “wife,” which shows that the graduation to respectability did matter.
So I wonder if that teeny part of her used the “I’m just acting nice to fool Dae-sung” routine as an actual excuse to be nice, without admitting the shameful fact that she actually cared about being a decent human being. As we’ve seen time and time again, especially with Eun-jo, she’s deliberately crude and harsh for shock effect. But now with Dae-sung gone, Kang-sook no longer has a reason to act nice, and in a small way it’s like she has lost her anchor. Might as well be the monster she believes she is. Ironically, now the constant cruelty has a suffocating effect on her — just as her nice act used to.
Or am I reaching? This is just a theory-in-progress so I don’t have the entire argument worked out yet, and maybe you disagree and think she’s an evil hag who is a master of getting people to do her bidding. I just don’t think this drama would simplify her to that extreme.
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 10
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 9
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 8
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 7
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 6
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 5
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 4
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 3
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 2
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 1
- Cinderella, Prosecutor, Taste: First episode impressions