That’s pretty much the face we all make when looking at Ye-eun, isn’t it?

This is actually the first episode that I connected with and made me feel for the characters. It’s a little late, and I don’t think I would have made it this long if I didn’t like the two leads’ interactions with each other (and, of course, with the kids). But now that it’s here, it finally feel like Yay! Now it’s a real drama! It’s like we’ve been lacking a crucial piece of the puzzle till now.

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EPISODE 12 RECAP

Kae-hwa admits to Shi-joon that she is living with Min-woo, but insists that they don’t have a “strange relationship.” Why can’t she remember the tried-and-true “I’m his maid”? Goodness knows it’s been used in many a kdrama, and these guys are in the entertainment biz so I’m sure they’ve seen a few of those in their day.

Anyway. She feels miserable and sorry toward Shi-joon, not able to defend herself beyond that. As Shi-joon drives home, he recalls Yoon-seok warning him not to trust Kae-hwa, which indicates that tiny seeds of doubt have been planted; it’s up to him to decide whether to nurture them or decide they’re rubbish.

Reporter Han immediately gets on the phone to his editor to ask for the whole front page of tomorrow’s paper. Scoop!

Kae-hwa trudges back to the apartment wearily, and Min-woo approaches (clearly having waited for her) to say she’s a terrible liar who was practically announcing to the others that they live together. They bicker a bit, but Kae-hwa just isn’t up for it because she is so preoccupied with what has just happened. She worries over how to explain everything to Shi-joon — she can hardly tell him the full truth about Min-woo’s child, but she doesn’t have a ready excuse, either.

Jung-ah requests a talk with Shi-joon, who silently takes a seat across the room — as far from her as possible — which strikes me as a douchey thing to do. I know, he’s the victim of adultery so I have been cutting him some slack, and the one who cheats doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. But it would be nice for him to be more cooperative — if he wants to end it, then end it. If not, then not. But he’s being passive-aggressive and that’s just making it worse.

She tells him, “I want to let go of you now” and suggests divorce, as it’s been years since they’ve acted like real spouses. Living like this is meaningless: “I’m tired of the husband who doesn’t even get angry that his wife had an affair.” After she walks out, he seems to react — shock? hurt? — but it’s only a very tiny crack in his perma-cool facade.

I wish I could find this relationship interesting because there are a lot of tensions and dynamics at play here, but alas I’m not compelled by any of it.

Now, THIS twosome, on the other hand…! I love that Ye-eun is getting more assertive and proactive, as she goes up to Kae-hwa to request a signature for a teacher’s note. However, Kae-hwa is busy at the moment, so she toddles over to Min-woo and holds out her notebook. Min-woo signs, and tells her to brag to all the kids that Sung Min-woo gave her his autograph.

(I had expected this signature to play a bigger role in the plot, but was a little let down that it doesn’t. At least for now.)

Although he still refers to himself as Ye-eun’s “oppa” (which shows that he identifies more with his star status than his parental one), he fixes Ye-eun’s sock in a vaguely fatherly gesture and calls her adorable, which has Kae-hwa smiling. This also convinces her to keep Ye-eun’s existence a secret from Shi-joon, even if that makes him upset with her — if she keeps her mouth shut, that solves a lot of problems for other people.

None of our main characters is immediately aware that the story of Min-woo’s living situation has made the front page of the tabloid paper, which features a (barely) blurred photo of Min-woo and the headline “Top star Mr. S, living with older woman!” While it doesn’t name any names, the story identifies enough details that anyone with half a brain could figure it out. Even Yura! (Sorry, that was uncalled for. She’s not dumb — just shallow and smug, which is about ten times worse.)

Shi-joon appears unperturbed so Producer Eom assumes that he must have not heard the news and enlightens him. Already word is spreading quickly, but Min-woo sits at home, blissfully unaware, watching West Side Story (and thinking it’s not all that — he is convinced he can do just as well). Hilariously, he starts singing along to “Maria,” but as he doesn’t know the English lyrics, he just “ya ya ya”s it. Oh, you. I love it because it’s one of those things that’s true to life but that we’d all be embarrassed to admit we do, like singing in our cars to songs we only half-know. (You know you do it!)

Yoon-seok, who is hounded by the press, drops by Min-woo’s place to show him the newspaper. Is this what Min-woo meant when he said he’d ruin them both?

I appreciate that while Yoon-seok may be a controlling manager, he’s not a full-on, evil cackling supervillain (unlike, for example, dude in A Star’s Lover). He looks genuinely rattled at this, and orders Min-woo to stay home. In no time the lobby fills up with journos and photogs, eager for more fuel to toss on the gossip fire.

Yura is thoroughly out of the loop but accuses Reporter Han of writing false reports. He says he had a reliable source, which piques her interest, but she’s left to wonder who that could be.

I’ve never cared for Yura scenes, but the pouty look on her face (when her phone calls to Min-woo go answered and she is turned away by the security guard) just makes my day. Aw, the little princess didn’t get her way. Boo. Hoo.

Nobody’s having a good morning (well, except maybe Reporter Han), but things are the worst for Kae-hwa. She has left the office briefly to drop by the store, and on her way in she finds a crowd of reporters on the sidewalk outside The Show Company. One reporter asks if she works for them and knows who Yoon Kae-hwa is; when she answers that she’s the one in question, they go wild.

Not only do the reporters swarm madly like ajummas at a bargain sale, indignant fangirls (+1 for continuity!) start pelting her with eggs. Shi-joon arrives as she is being assaulted and comes to her rescue, shielding her and whisking her off in his car.

Shi-joon shows Kae-hwa the newspaper article, which badly shakes her up. She can tell immediately that she’s the one in the story, which paints the relationship in a lurid light. What will Min-ji think?

Shi-joon asks if she can tell him what’s really the issue between her and Min-woo. Unable to confide in him, she can only say, “I’m sorry.” He asks what she’s going to do — if she can’t defend herself with the truth, then there’s no way to fight the rumors. Even in the midst of her problems, Kae-hwa worries for Min-woo’s welfare, since he will be more affected than she will be.

Swooping into damage control mode, Yoon-seok calls a meeting with the now-smug Reporter Han. His plan is to spin this off a different way to save Min-woo, so he pretends to be amused with Reporter Han’s misguided article — doesn’t he know he missed an even bigger story?

Yoon-seok says, “We’re actually the victims. Do you know how frightening Yoon Kae-hwa actually is?” With this added info, Han gets to work on another article, painting Kae-hwa as a blackmailing opportunist.

Noooo! (And also, what are you smoking? Who would believe sweet Kae-hwa being an evil mastermind? Well, I suppose this IS the internet era where facts are so often irrelevant…)

Min-woo impatiently calls Kae-hwa, but as her phone has been left behind in the office with her purse, she doesn’t have it with her. When Yoon-seok comes by again, he assures Min-woo that the matter is taken care of, and advises him to get his rest. Yoon-seok takes this opportunity to remind Min-woo that in hard times like this, he’s always here to help out. That’s like spitting on a man who’s on fire and calling yourself noble for moistening the flames.

Kae-hwa apologizes to Min-ji for missing her in-class talk, which has Min-ji pouting and hanging up on her. (Man, if I hung up on my mother at that age, I’d’ve been whooped but good. Kids these days.)

She then checks in on Min-woo using Shi-joon’s phone, relieved to hear that he’s fine. She assures him that she’s also fine, and Shi-joon’s presence is a big help. (He grumbles, “Who said I wanted to know?”) She apologizes for being embroiled in a scandal with him and causing him embarrassment, admitting that she’s scared.

After they hang up, Min-woo vents his annoyance at why Kae-hwa is with Shi-joon. Doesn’t she have any other friends? I love when Min-woo gets grumpy while refusing to admit he’s jealous.

Things go from bad to worse when a television news report goes out based on the misinformation supplied by Yoon-seok — now Kae-hwa is called a blackmailer who strong-armed Min-woo into joining the musical. She is accused of threatening to use a car accident from his newbie days against him and misrepresenting it as a hit and run.

Kae-hwa and Shi-joon see this report while eating lunch, which upsets Kae-hwa all over again. She steps aside to call Bok-nim to take care of Ye-eun — which Shi-joon overhears. Left with no choice, she confesses the truth.

Shi-joon finds it rather hard to believe that she is just taking all this abuse to keep the secret about Min-woo’s child. She answers that she has to protect the girl, and because she is so honest and honorable, she even concedes that the blackmailing charge is correct — she agreed to take care of Ye-eun on the condition that Min-woo take the musical. Kae-hwa apologizes, feeling awful that the company got dragged into this, and suspects that Shi-joon is furious. He confirms that he is, and although she assumes he’s angry with her, we can deduce that his ire is directed elsewhere.

Min-woo also sees the report and yells at Yoon-seok for accusing Kae-hwa of blackmail. In fact, it’s particularly insulting because it had been Yoon-seok who had used the car accident against him. Min-woo defends Kae-hwa as honest and sincere, and points out that she has been raising Ye-eun all this while.

Yoon-seok finds Min-woo’s reaction strange, asking whether Min-woo would prefer to reveal the whole truth. He rationalizes his strategy by saying that nobody knows who Kae-hwa is anyway, so what’s the harm in dumping just a little more on her, if it saves him?

Min-woo can’t even finish the phone call and hangs up, yelling into the air in frustration.

Soon afterward, his friend Tae-gu drops by with a disguise to make him look like a deliveryman. Wearing a motorcycle helmet and delivery jacket, Min-woo is able to avoid being recognized and makes it to his car, which is when he gets a call from Shi-joon, who demands a meeting.

And now for an unexpected highlight: Byung-hak bursts into the office furiously, looking for Kae-hwa. I was expecting him to start badmouthing her right away, but instead he accuses the company of corrupting her — it must have taken a lot of bullying to force such a nice lady to such extremes.

Aw! I thought he was going to come out as the typical arrogant ass he has been, but he is actually defending Kae-hwa! He even asks suspiciously whether this is actually the company’s fault and if they’re using Kae-hwa as a scapegoat. If they continue to torment Kae-hwa, he will withdraw his investment.

So he did have a heart after all! Just not much of a brain. This surprise reversal makes this scene rather hilarious, even as he’s being misguidedly rude.

Shi-joon calls Min-woo out to the river, which has me ready to crack a joke about a gangster fight, only he actually DOES clock Min-woo in the face. Omo! (Not the pretty face!)

Min-woo had referred to himself as the victim (because the news reports were calling him that), and although he hadn’t meant it seriously, his use of the word has Shi-joon fuming. How dare he call himself the victim when an innocent woman has taken the brunt of this scandal in order to keep his secret? “I don’t care about your personal life — but you should have the bare minimum of conscience!”

Shi-joon tells him, “Yoon Kae-hwa must really be dumb. Even after I found out the truth, she was worrying about the likes of you.” It doesn’t matter if this is Yoon-seok’s doing, because Min-woo is just as complicit in it.

Min-woo is bothered by that charge, as though Shi-joon has confirmed what he’d been feeling about himself.

Shi-joon reminds Min-woo that he’d said before that he has grown up now, and that Shi-joon had better not look down on him because of his age. He issues a challenge: “So let’s see you acting like an adult.” Min-woo should step in and handle this incident.

Min-woo asks where Kae-hwa is right now, and although he has used her name before, this is the first time in many episodes (since they established their housekeeper-landlord dynamic) that he uses her name rather than calling her “ajumma.”

Kae-hwa can’t go back to Min-woo’s place so she has come to the all-night sauna, which is where Min-woo finds her. Wearing a towel on his head to mask his face, he sits next to Kae-hwa, who ignores the creepy stranger and moves to a different room. He follows.

He scoots up to her, and whoa there stranger, you’re getting mighty close — even for a friend! Then he grabs her foot to prevent her from leaving, to which she reacts instinctively and clocks him with a pillow. Ha!

He asks if she’s okay, and after first faking that she is, she admits that she’s really not. How does he handle all his scandals? She’s worried Min-ji will see the photos and read about her mother being labeled as a blackmailing stalker.

Min-woo tells her that as the more experienced one in the world of scandalmaking, he’s here to advise her.

Kae-hwa believes she shouldn’t feel unfairly accused, since the blackmailing charge is correct — he accused her of that at first, too. Min-woo levels with her, saying that the gossip could take a more unpleasant turn. The internet will overflow with comments so negative that they’ll make her want to jump into the river. However — and this is key — a few days later things always quiet down, funny enough. He advises her to endure it for now, because it will pass.

Kae-hwa brightens slightly at that, but we can see that Min-woo doesn’t feel great about what he has told her. It’s not that he’s lied, but he recognizes he’s taking the easy way out by leaving her out to dry and just telling her to “get through it.”

As if on cue to contradict Min-woo’s reassuring words, nearby ajummas start gossiping about the news and calling Kae-hwa names.

Min-woo calls her name to divert her attention back to him, and says, “Just keep looking into my eyes.”

He takes her head into his hands and stares straight at her as he thinks (but does not say aloud!), “I’m sorry. For making you encounter all these things because of a guy called Sung Min-woo, whom you wouldn’t have known if you’d stayed in Yoon Kae-hwa’s world. For not being able to tell you anything other than to endure, I’m sorry.”

After Min-woo leaves, Bok-nim brings both girls to the sauna. (I hadn’t even noticed before that the girls have the same hairstyle.) Kae-hwa apologizes to her daughter for missing the talk at school today, but Min-ji is in a much more understanding mood now — Bok-nim had explained to her that her mother’s job is unpredictable and busy, and that work had come up.

The girls have already bonded (over stickers!) and go off, leaving the adults to talk. Bok-nim has been constantly checking online for photos of Kae-hwa, but oddly enough they haven’t surfaced. Someone must have erased them.

Kae-hwa says miserably that she’ll have to quit her job because she feels so bad to have dragged the company’s name into the scandal. Bok-nim speaks hotly in her defense — Min-woo ought to take responsibility, not her.

That thought is not lost on Min-woo, who calls Shi-joon to ask for a meeting, his mood solemn.

They meet at an empty restaurant (it’s a busy night for meetings, isn’t it?), where Min-woo admits that he tends to live his life the same way he always has, which is why he finds it difficult to suddenly change direction. He’s afraid, after he’s been taken care of and managed all this time — he’s uncertain of how to go it alone.

Shi-joon gives him some wise words: “People don’t attempt things because they have confidence. After the fact, they develop confidence for having done them.” He adds that everyone has fear, and it doesn’t go away after one, two, or a hundred times — you just develop an ability to prepare yourself.

The tone is nice here, understated and friendly. Min-woo is showing Shi-joon some maturity by being honest rather than posturing as the Big Star, and Shi-joon respects him for it.

In his apartment lobby, Min-woo prepares himself mentally before facing the reporters, who quickly recognize him and swarm around. Min-woo announces that he will give a press conference tomorrow morning where he will reveal everything — but he has a condition. Erase all the photos online of Ms. Yoon, and back off from her. Although he’s a public person, she’s a private citizen and there’s no reason that she should have to suffer because of unconfirmed gossip. (Decisive Min-woo = sexy!)

Yoon-seok gets wind of his statement and calls, angry that Min-woo has agreed to a press conference. He warns him not to do anything strange, but from the way Min-woo broods that night, we understand that he’s preparing for some kind of big gesture.

In the morning, Min-woo takes his place in the conference hall and faces the reporters, who are dying of curiosity. In the sauna, it’s Ye-eun who first recognizes Min-woo on TV and points to get Kae-hwa’s attention.

Min-woo first apologizes for causing disappointment with the recent gossip, and explains that he will clear up some misunderstandings. Namely:

(1) He chose to act in the musical. Nobody blackmailed or pressured him into it. (2) The car accident really happened. However, she never tried to use that against him, and he was never blackmailed. (3) Ms. Yoon has absolutely nothing to do with anything. She is an honest, just person.

Though surprised, the reporters accept his explanations. But Reporter Han (tenacious bugger) persists that Min-woo must have some relationship with Ms. Yoon — she has been seen coming and going from his place frequently. So what exactly is the nature of their relationship?

Min-woo probably didn’t expect this question, so he pauses to think over possible answers while everyone waits with bated breath. And after a few tense, anxious moments, he finally decides what to say: “She and I are dating.”

OMO OMO!

 
COMMENTS

This episode was more fun to watch all around — and not just the last part where Min-woo says they’re dating — because of two reasons. (1) I finally felt that the writer/producers were bothering to give us some real plot after treading water for a while, and (2) Min-woo showed marked development.

Min-woo has been pretty appealing thus far due to the light-hearted script and Choi Siwon’s charm, but he hasn’t actually developed that much. He’s more thoughtful and considerate now than as that spoiled star in the beginning, but he was never outright rude or mean — not like Rain in Full House, or Jang Geun-seok in You’re Beautiful. He was just shallow and selfish. And he’s still generally shallow now (just not as much) and selfish (though better than before).

So the fact that he makes a real change in this episode is a huge step forward, and my response/attachment to the show grew accordingly.

(In contrast, I find almost all the other characters to be very static, which is too bad. Kae-hwa is a saint so she hardly changes at all, which may be the point for a drama like this where she’s the steady and warm influence on the hero, who is the one who changes, but I wish we saw a little movement on her part too. But in any case, she is played by the very winning Chae Rim, who I think makes it work.)

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