Victory! Who knew a terminal illness could be so freeing? Never thought I’d say those words, but as it turns out, sometimes finding out that you’re going to die is just the thing you need to start living.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Yeon-jae throws her resignation in her boss’s face, in what has got to be the most satisfying job-quitting I’ve seen in a long time. As the words “I quit, you son of a bitch!” come out of her mouth, the entire office gasps in awe.
Her boss tells her that he’ll blackball her in the industry forever. She laughs bitterly, “Forever? Forever for me isn’t much longer!” And with that she turns to gather up her things.
I love that she’s so palpably fired up from her anger and fear and excitement – it’s the way you feel when the adrenaline is still rushing through your body but you have no outlet for it.
She starts to walk out and then turns back to grab the awful girl Nari’s purse, declaring that she’ll repay her loan with interest… after which she can retrieve her purse. HA. I love her newfound spunk mixed in with the sheer awkwardness of her.
She makes her exit, and who should be out in the hall but Sae-kyung, just after their second humiliating encounter. She turns to go with a haughty smile and Yeon-jae looks like she might revert to her old ways…
But she musters up the courage to stop her. Aw, yeah! She explains that she didn’t steal Wilson’s ring, but Sae-kyung refuses to give her the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that there’s no evidence on either side.
Yeon-jae gathers up her nerves to say that if she continues to accuse her like this, she’ll sue her for defamation (the term in Korean is “dishonor”). Sae-kyung scoffs: “Do people like you even have honor to reclaim?”
Yeon-jae slaps her right across the face. “How is it? Getting slapped puts you in a so-so mood, doesn’t it? I was in a so-so mood too, after being slapped. What? Is there some kind of law that rich heiresses are the only ones who can slap people? Were you born with the right to treat people any way you want?”
She says that she was raised as a precious daughter in her household too, and people shouldn’t look down on others because they happened to be born to rich parents. Sae-kyung takes a swipe at her but she ducks, claiming to be quite athletic. Heh.
God, I love that she’s finally telling her off. I feel so redeemed right now for watching her be the quiet suffering heroine for the entire first episode. She walks off, head held high, leaving Sae-kyung fuming.
Sae-kyung goes straight to her future father-in-law to demand that Yeon-jae be fired on the spot. The chairman starts to say that he believe Yeon-jae wouldn’t steal, but Sae-kyung yells that she dared to slap her.
Ji-wook gets word and seems amused at the matter, asking to see Yeon-jae right away. But Sang-woo tells him that she already quit on her own and walked out.
She wanders the streets in a daze and then ends up at the bank to clean out her savings account. The clerk marvels at her savings – she has upwards of $30,000 in just one of three accounts, and she asks how she managed to save so well.
Yeon-jae answers dully, “If you don’t use it, don’t eat, don’t buy, you can…” The regret comes over her in a wave, realizing that she’s saved her pennies all her life, and for what?
Talking mostly to herself, she starts to name all the things she had scrimped on: cheap t-shirts on the street, making a pair of shoes last forever, never going abroad or buying one designer bag.
She starts to cry. “I was going to get married, and buy a car, and in five years, maybe a house with a yard… That’s why I saved, and saved, and saved… It’s so unfair. So unfair. So unfair.” The tears come rolling down, in the most awkward of places, in the middle of the bank. It’s heartbreakingly real.
Her friend and co-worker Hye-won calls in a panic to ask what’s going on, and she just says she wants to drink. But not at their usual place. So that night they meet at a swanky bar, gasping at the prices on the menu.
Hye-won asks if she’s really okay, wondering what on earth is making her penny-pincher friend suddenly want to treat her out to someplace like this. Yeon-jae gets scared at first, letting Hye-won order two beers, but then grits her teeth and changes the order to a bottle of scotch and the finest fruit plate.
They happily learn the taste of expensive scotch and proceed to get totally hammered. Hye-won notices Ji-wook walk into the bar and swoons, saying that it’s her fantasy to date a man like that once before she dies.
She says it like you would any pipedream, but Yeon-jae stands up and puts her glass down with zeal. “Tonight, I’m going to seduce that man.” Hahaha. She takes off her glasses, deciding that she’s going to be with a man like that before she dies.
She makes her wobbly, squinty approach, as Ji-wook turns, realizing that she’s coming straight for him. At the same time, Sae-kyung makes her way up to the bar to meet him. He looks over at her curiously, and Yeon-jae continues to walk toward him…
…running straight into a waiter with a flaming cocktail. It ends up all over her, and she stings from the embarrassment more than the pain. Ji-wook gives a chuckle as she runs off, mortified. To add insult to injury, Sae-kyung sees her pass by with a snicker.
Hye-won helps her clean up in the bathroom, and asks how she was planning to seduce Ji-wook anyway. Besides, she points out, even if she HAD seduced him, what was she going to do wearing a tattered old bra?
She thinks the embarrassment was worth it since they got their whole check comped and a free room on top of it all, but Yeon-jae just sighs that nothing’s going her way. She almost tells Hye-won the truth, but decides against it in the end.
Sae-kyung remains in a snippy mood (though I’d counter she’s never NOT in a snippy mood) and Ji-wook fans the flames by saying that the employee must’ve had a reason to slap her. But he hands over a present to lift her spirits—a designer wallet with tickets to a show. She hates both like the brat that she is, so he tells her to throw them away to one of her employees then.
Yeon-jae saves Ji-wook’s number in her phone that night, and then wakes up the next morning with a sigh. She opens up her computer and starts to research cancer. Mom comes in unannounced, so she slams her laptop shut in a panic, and Mom just smiles, “Were you looking at porn?” Hahaha.
She lies that she’s got some time off from work, so Mom tells her to stop by while she watches a friend’s store. She hugs Mom on her way out, and just gets snapped at for smooshing her hair. Heh.
Nari calls to finally repay her debt and get her precious purse back, and Yeon-jae makes her add the measly interest, just to make a point. Nari asks why she quit, when she’s SO OLD, and Yeon-jae counters, “If I’m so old, then why do you speak to me in banmal? Do you think you’ll never age? You’ll turn thirty someday too.” She gasps, horrified.
She hilariously tells Nari to become just like her and meet a co-worker just like herself, as if she’s putting a hex on her. Yup, karma’s kinda awesome that way.
Ji-wook meanwhile gives a presentation for a “Free Independent” line of tours, and the board is startled to find that he’s actually doing good work. He’s not though—he’s just parroting what Sang-woo has prepared for him, and only because he feels obligated to.
They suggest that he goes to Japan to test out the proposed travel places himself, and Dad tries to get him to show a little effort at anything in life. But Ji-wook remains aloof, telling his father that just because something is the most expensive doesn’t mean he has to like it. He certainly seems to resent what money means, though he doesn’t care enough to NOT take advantage of its luxuries.
Yeon-jae goes to meet Mom as promised, only Mom drags her to a matchmaking service, despite her pleas. God, this is painful to watch. Basically she railroads her and does what moms do, exaggerating Yeon-jae’s position at work and her assets to try and cover up for her lack of college education or her age.
She plays along at first despite cringing at the awfulness of it all, but finally when Mom insists that she can give the company’s newlyweds a discount for their honeymoons, she tells her that she can’t. Mom doesn’t listen and she can’t take it anymore, blurting out: “I can’t do that! I can’t do that because I quit my job!”
She runs out and Mom freaks out that she quit her job when she has nothing else to stand on. All she can think about of course is that no one will marry her if she has no job, which is the exact wrong thing to say to the girl who desperately wishes she could even live long enough to get married.
Yeon-jae screams that she won’t get married then, and asks if she was so ashamed of her daughter to lie to that woman. She says sadly that she worked really hard to live a good life, and of all people, Mom doesn’t have the right to be ashamed of her. She outright blames her for the fact that she ended up like this, sending Mom away in tears.
Sae-kyung arrives to meet her father, shocked to find her ex-boyfriend leaving Dad’s office flustered. She stops and immediately her demeanor softens, and she asks tenderly if he’s doing well. He simply tells her that they can’t be caught together and leaves.
She storms into Daddy’s office up in arms about him continuing to mess with her beloved when she stuck to her word to break up with him, come to work at the company, and even marry someone he chose.
She threatens that if he doesn’t stick to his side of the bargain, she’ll just go back to him and they’ll run away together. So Dad has no recourse but to play her a recording of his conversation with her ex, not five minutes ago.
In it, he clearly blackmails her father, asking for money to keep the “pretty pictures” from surfacing. Oh, gross. Scumbag. She’s stunned, not understanding the extent of it at first, but Dad quickly disillusions her about her so-called love – he’s squeezed upwards of 20 million won from him thus far, going back as far as their first 100 days together.
Dad determined it’d be nicer if she thought it was love, so he never intended for her to know. He adds that “those people” only see her as money and nothing else. Oy, so now we know where Princess gets her attitude from.
It’s nice to see that she does actually have a soft side that’s vulnerable to heartbreak, not that it changes my desire to smash a pie in her face.
She calls the guy to tell him off, and then drowns her sorrows in liquor. That much is fine. I’m with here there. But then she calls Ji-wook over and then orders him to sing her a song, like he’s a puppet boy. He refuses, of course, so her temper flares.
She calls someone there who WILL listen to her orders like a trained dog, and proceeds to treat him like a slave. Ji-wook tries to intervene, but she tells him that she sees no difference between that guy who’s here to earn money and Ji-wook, who’s marrying her for money.
He gives the boy a few bills and asks him to be her designated driver, and leaves. She immediately kicks the other guy out too, but not before throwing money at him, of course. Wow you are insufferable. At least now I get why, but it doesn’t change the insufferable part.
The next day, Yeon-jae goes to the hospital, freaked out the sight of a cancer patient. Eun-seok tells her that they’ll start chemo right away, and suggests a new trial drug. She refuses to be used for tests despite his insistence that it’s a good opportunity, so he finally relents to just the usual course of meds.
She corrects him – she’s not going to get ANY treatment. He tells her that this isn’t something that she can remain in denial about, or put off until later. She tells him that she watched her dad go through those painful procedures for his liver cancer. “I’m scared. The second I get a shot, I’ll become a real cancer patient. And that scares me.”
Eun-seok doesn’t skirt the issue, which I like about him: “You are a real cancer patient now.” He tells her brusquely that if she’s not going to get treatment, to stop wasting his time. Tears fall and her anger finally spills out. “Choi Eun-seok, if your mother had cancer, would you have told her like this?” She asks if this the only way he can talk to a friend from childhood.
She spits out, “Even if I do get treatment, I won’t get it from a doctor like you! If you talk this way to a friend, then how must you be to other people? I feel bad for your patients.” She confesses that she’s already scared to death, but feels like meeting a doctor like him is REALLY the thing to make her truly pitiable. HA. How much am I going to love this friendship?
She storms out, leaving him rattled, and heads to her father’s grave in a rage.
Yeon-jae: How could you do this to me? How could you? Is there really nothing else you could’ve left me? Other people leave their children homes and inheritances. How could you leave your daughter cancer, Dad? Other fathers hold their daughters’ hands while walking them down the aisle. But how could you do this to me? How could you?!
I want to date, and marry, and have a baby. But now there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can do! This is all your fault! It’s all your fault! I’m never coming back here again! I won’t! Just so you know.
She leaves in an angry fit of tears, but then she comes right back, bottle of soju in hand. Aw. She pours Dad a drink and apologizes for taking it out on him when she’s just scared and frustrated.
She tells him that she can’t tell Mom even though all she wants to do is lean on her. Then she leans on Dad’s grave, like she’s resting her head in his lap. In flashback we see that she spent her youth by her father’s sickbed, trying to be his strength but watching him grow sicker and more regretful of the life he’d led.
He wished he had taken her to more places said “I love you” more, and told her not to live like him. She makes the decision to heed his advice, and goes home to pack a bag and head to her dream island.
She starts packing and then stops as she looks at all her dreary clothes. She looks at herself in the mirror…
Makeover time! And how much do I love that this is no Cinderella makeover given to her by some prince or fairy godmother? She just decides that she’s going to do it up right and finally spend some money on herself.
She goes on a shopping spree and heads to the airport a new woman, turning quite a few heads on her way in. The only ticket left to Okinawa that day is first class, and she says no, but then catches herself.
First class it is! She squeals in delight at the array of food and champagne, and then even has some good luck at the hotel when they accidentally double-book her in a room with a naked man. Hee.
So she gets upgraded to a suite overlooking the ocean and she swoons at the view. She tells the concierge that this might be her last trip, so she wants to enjoy the best of everything.
She lives it up and enjoys all the perks, and sighs that the only thing missing is a man…
Enter Ji-wook, who gets dragged along on the scouting trip with Sang-woo, and happens to walk right into her hotel. She ducks behind her wide-brimmed hat in shock at the sight of him, but follows him thinking that she’s being stealthy.
He turns around to see a woman in a bright pink bikini following him and pretending not to, but just laughs and dismisses it as nothing.
She sneaks up to her room without being seen, and then breaks out into a giant smile. Haha. It’s like she ordered a dreamboat off the menu and there he is!
She changes and then get back to stalking him, and follows him into the marina. She hilariously follows him but refuses to actually confront him, so she ends up running away onto a boat to avoid being seen.
He follows her onto the boat and introduces himself, thinking that she’s the tour guide who’s supposed to show him around the island. The guide’s name happens to be Miss Lee too, so she shakes his hand confirming that she is Miss Lee.
Just then, the boat engine starts. They lurch forward, and he reaches his arms around her to catch her fall.
Aw, how sweet. It kind of feels like an old-school romance in the best way. I can’t wait to see more of Yeon-jae’s brighter side as she continues to un-repress her true nature. The first episode drove me crazy with her downtrodden pride-swallowing ways, but of course watching where she starts out is what makes her turn so damn satisfying. A drama that can make me feel so angry and then vindicated in two episodes is certainly going to grab my heart in no time.
The everyday realism, finding drama in the mundane moments, is the Dr. Champ team’s forte, and I think this plot serves that kind of storytelling even better than their last project. Yeon-jae’s realization that she’s lived her whole life denying herself to prepare for the future, only to find that she has none? Is just achingly so true to life. I love that this isn’t about cancer or even dying, but about a woman’s journey to find herself for the first time.
It’s a fantastic setup because it has the best of both worlds – we get the fantasy of her finally living it up in first class and getting a chance at Prince Charming, but the cancer keeps it rooted in reality. I like that tether. It’s tragic, yes, but it’s also the perfect motivator, instigator, or whatever you want to call it. Death is just her wake-up call, and I have a great feeling that it’s going to be just as awesome to watch how that life-altering change affects the other people around her.
- Scent of a Woman: Episode 1
- Scent of a Woman posters
- Lee Dong-wook bares skin for Scent of a Woman
- Kissy stills from Scent of a Woman
- Scent of a Woman shoots in Okinawa
- Lee Dong-wook in Scent of a Woman
- Stills from SBS’s Scent of a Woman
- Seo Hyo-rim added to Scent of a Woman
- Eom Ki-joon joins Scent of a Woman
- Lee Dong-wook’s comeback drama with Kim Sun-ah