Despite not having many expectations for Can’t Lose, I’m finding it to be surprisingly watchable and entertaining — light, funny, with enough characters and cases to keep the plot going without feeling like they’re going to run out of conflict. I appreciate that the conflicts are believable and interesting, without loading on the angst.
So far there are no really bad people in this drama, just people on different sides of an argument who both have valid points. In that, it sort of reminds me of Dal Ja’s Spring mixed with Love & Marriage, though maybe more of the latter. I think the other way around would be stronger, but both are sweet, funny dramas that I enjoyed all the way through.
SONG OF THE DAY
Yoon Sang-hyun – “정든거 아시나요” from the Can’t Lose OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
So Hyung-woo wins his case in court, then is served with divorce papers. I find it incidentally amusing that they’ve only technically been married for about a month, due to the whole registration snafu.
Hyung-woo shuts himself in his office and reads over the paperwork. Eun-jae has filed on grounds that he goes out of his way to avoid talking (true), lies a lot (again true), sneaks around with his ex-girfriend (sadly also undeniable), and the like.
Eun-jae isn’t answering his calls, so he borrows Woo-shik’s cell phone (without letting on the source of his worry) and finds that Eun-jae picks up right away when she thinks it’s their office manager. But she hangs up on him right away, then heads into a beauty salon for a change in image. She specifically asks for something “combative,” since she’s preparing for battle.
Hyung-woo thinks back to the signs of her decision in the days leading to this, and now he finally worries, “She can’t…be serious?” Maybe if you’d taken her worries seriously earlier…
Eun-jae shows up at the office at the end of the workday sporting a new hairstyle and manicure. Known for keeping herself on a tight budget, she explains to the surprised employees that she wants to spend money on herself now. Hyung-woo’s dying for a chance to really talk this over, but she ignores him and invites the office out to a dinner, talking to them instead of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
At the restaurant, the group separates into ladies vs. men. The wives (and Deuk-hee) chat cheerily about “investing in yourself” and “valuing yourself,” while the husbands (and Woo-shik) sit there uncomfortably. Gogi warns that it’s scary when women change their styles suddenly. Ha, there’s this recurring motif of men in this drama looking at women as though they’re from an alien race, whom they are incapable of comprehending with their feeble non-female understanding. It’s not an entirely unbelievable characterization.
Hyung-woo finally gets Eun-jae alone afterward and asks what the matter is all of a sudden, and why she won’t talk to him about it. She answers that it wasn’t sudden, and that she tried, but he ran away every time. True, all true. He says they can talk it over now, then, but the offer has got that desperate ring to it, now that it’s a day late and a dollar short.
Trying to figure out what the source of this is, he insists that he and Hee-soo aren’t up to anything. But the fact remains that he lied, and now Eun-jae only wants one thing from him: a consensual divorce. If not, she’ll have to sue, which is more difficult and contentious.
He refuses, saying, “I’m going to live with you for the rest of my life!” He means he won’t give up, but it’s worded ever so wrongly — like it’s all about him — and she calls him selfish to the last. She gets up to leave and he balks, saying he’s not done talking to her yet. She asks, “It’s infuriating when you’re the one on that end, isn’t it? I felt like this every day.”
I have to admit that as much as I’m with her on this, he does look pretty pathetic as the reality sinks in and she walks out.
Eun-jae drinks by the river today with Hot Barkeep, who chokes on his beer when she announces filing for divorce. Even though I’m expecting him to be a lot more opportunistic about Eun-jae’s relationship status, he does pleasantly surprise me every time; he listens to her and freely tells her that he thinks she’s being rash, but stops short of forcing his opinion on her.
An interesting detail comes out about their relationship, in that Hot Barkeep has been giving money to Eun-jae’s mother at her request. Eun-jae sends money to Mom periodically, but it seems that he has to make excuses so that Mom doesn’t know it’s really from her daughter. I can see how this arrangement works for Eun-jae, who feels justified in maintaining the rift (Mom must’ve done something awful) but can’t help looking after her anyway.
I like that this conversation happens outside of the bar, in that it only seems fitting that she make her divorce announcement to him as a friend, not as the Hot Barkeep. This conversation also suggests that their friendship goes back a long while; I’d assumed that they spoke banmal to each other because they had a friendly customer-server relationship, but now it looks like there’s a more interesting story that we haven’t been told yet.
When Eun-jae gets home, she finds Hyung-woo waiting up for her. He gets on his knees to supplicate, begging her to stop being angry at him. It doesn’t work, since Eun-jae filed for divorce because she wants the divorce, not his begging. He pleads anyway and grabs her hands, and she ends up accidentally scratching his face with her new nails. Oops.
Hyung-woo heads to the husband refuge, aka the neighborhood playground, and tells his voice recorder that he ended up getting hit again by the wife, declaring that there’s “only one way” for him to react now.
The next day, he agrees to go along with her terms, which includes keeping the divorce quiet at the office. He overcompensates by being overly affectionate, knowing she won’t retaliate in front of the others. It doesn’t fool the employees, though, who can tell they’re faking the smiles while muttering to each other on the phone.
Hyung-woo isn’t about to just accept this divorce suit lying down, and he gets to writing his reply to the initial complaint, which basically contradicts it and requests a dismissal.
He slips out of the office to submit his response, joined by a snooping Gogi, who sidles up behind him, reads the paperwork, and tries to grab it away from the clerk. Hyung-woo declares that he’ll do everything to change Eun-jae’s mind and convince her that her complaints no longer apply.
Gogi returns to the office trying to keep his mouth shut with the other employees, who pump him for information. He’s a poor liar and stutters, but thankfully he’s spared the scrutiny by the arrival of Woo-shik’s aunt, who is here for legal consultation.
It turns out that the aunt is here on behalf of her comatose daughter, whose husband has been cheating on her numerous times but refuses to divorce her. Aunt has tried to sue for divorce more than once, but her son-in-law has never showed up in court.
Eun-jae speaks encouragingly while also getting in a few digs at her husband, saying that men never want to divorce even when they’ve been cheating. She even slips a little, saying “we” when referring to the divorce plaintiff, which gets Woo-shik’s Spidey sense tingling.
Hyung-woo feels the need to speak up in his own defense, but that puts him in a tenuous situation since the client thinks he’s taking her scoundrel son-in-law’s side. Eun-jae assures her she’ll take the lead on this case, making sure the divorce goes through, because “I can’t ever forgive cheating men.”
Woo-shik figures that he and Gogi both know that the lawyers are in divorce proceedings, but agree they have to keep this a secret. Let’s see how long that lasts.
Hyung-woo makes it a point to take a call in front of Eun-jae wherein he’s actively soliciting cases, to counter her claims that he doesn’t earn any money. Shortly afterward, he texts her from a conference of small business owners to prove he’s working hard. (Hilariously, she’s changed his name in her cell phone to “Defendant.”)
He continues to send her cutesy photo texts all day, which confuses her more than anything. She eventually figures it out and confronts him about stalling with the divorce agreement while trying to change her mind.
Hyung-woo admits he’s going to fix everything she listed in her complaint, but she points out that he should’ve done all that before she decided to divorce him. He looks around and sees her mess, and with effort he bites back his usual nagging complaints about her slovenliness and forces himself to act like he doesn’t care.
He tries to ingratiate himself to her and insists on engaging in conversation, since that was her main complaint, and follows her around the apartment doggedly. She finally grabs his face in her hands, then looks around in mock puzzlement, wondering if there’s a mosquito in here, because she can hear this annoying buzzing sound. HA. Why are these so cute when they’re bickering?
Eun-jae calls Hyung-woo out to meet her divorce attorney, Lawyer Kim, who’s her former law firm sunbae. Lawyer Kim mentions Eun-jae’s various complaints, including Hyung-woo’s tendency to use force. Well, that’s not exactly accurate, and Hyung-woo points to his face and tells her that Eun-jae’s actually the one who likes to use force, and says he’s got proof. Lawyer Kim mutters to Eun-jae that if this is true, her case becomes much more complicated.
Lawyer Kim encourages them to go the easier, quieter route and agree upon divorce — because if they take it to trial, their dirty laundry gets aired in front of their many legal-field colleagues. Proving that point, the group is recognized by Soju, who exchanges greetings with Lawyer Kim — they’re both divorce specialists.
Lawyer Kim decides that she can’t take the case after all — she feels uncomfortable with Hyung-woo’s claim, and would rather stay out of this.
They get the call to come meet Professor Jo, who sends away the staff before asking the couple how they’re doing. They’re like errant schoolchildren in front of him, trying to maintain appearances and shrinking back in fear of upsetting/angering/disappointing him.
He presents them with their divorce papers, having been assigned to this case, to their horror. I love that there’s this mutual father-like figure in their lives who has the power to cow them when they’re acting immature, or shame them, or scare them. Heh. Furthermore, he’s peeved that he’s the judge forced to oversee their suit and screams at them, “Why are you two divorcing? WHY?!”
He tells them to rescind their suit, since he won’t watch them fight each other in court. Eun-jae bursts out, head bowed, that she’s sorry but can’t do that. The couple starts bickering about what is true and what is misunderstanding, ignoring Professor Jo until he mocks them by treating the fight like a boxing match, which shames them again.
Professor Jo points out both of their wrongdoings and rips up the papers. Still, Eun-jae warns Hyung-woo that she’s pressing forward, saying that she hasn’t even brought out her last card yet.
Hyung-woo heads to Eun-jae’s mother’s restaurant and eats her noodles enthusiastically. It’s cute how well these two have taken to each other now that they’ve met, but Mom’s huge smile fades when he asks if he can come clean to Eun-jae about Mom’s case. Mom tells him that Eun-jae’s likely to divorce him if he confesses that, which I guess is the definition of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Mom sighs that she’s hurt Eun-jae a lot, and apologizes to Hyung-woo for the situation. He feels the burden of that, and can’t apparently break his promise to Mom even at the possible expense of his marriage. So Hyung-woo drinks, stuck between his emotional rock and hard place.
Eun-jae frets at home, not up to the task of opposing Professor Jo with her lawsuit. Hyung-woo comes home and collapses on the couch, mumbling to himself, “Why’d we turn out this way? I married you because I love you. You’re the only one for me…”
Eun-jae isn’t immune, but she shakes it off by telling herself he’s acting, trying to earn sympathy points.
Hee-soo drops by the Hope office and tells Eun-jae with a heavy heart that she wants to give up on her case. A lawyer met with her father, who’s very ill, and she fears that continuing with the case will kill him. Furthermore, she’s being harassed by her old sunbaes and is tired of it all.
Eun-jae gently says she hopes Hee-soo will stick with the case, sympathizing with her for her troubles and advising her that continuing will enable her to leave this burden behind her freely. She urges her to keep her head up and remember there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Hee-soo runs into Hyung-woo on her way out, telling him of her intention to give up. She tells him that Eun-jae had told her that even coming this far was admirable, not having pressed her to stick with it. Hyung-woo says he can’t approve this decision, and Hee-soo tells him gently, “That’s why we broke up.”
Hyung-woo comes home and tells Eun-jae she should have convinced Hee-soo to continue with her lawsuit. She counters that it’s her job to abide by the client’s wishes.
He asks if spite had anything to do with her backing off, which is probably the worst thing he could do to pour oil on that flame — he’s simultaneously reminded her of old fights, challenged her professionalism, called her ethics into question, and accused her of jealousy. Way to multi-task. At her indignant response, he says, “If not, fine.” But that’s not the kind of thing you can’t just bring up and then dismiss, and Eun-jae’s so upset she throws her bag of chips at his retreating back.
He doesn’t get her sudden fury, while she shoves some of his clothes into a bag and shoves him out the door. Hyung-woo drives to the Hope office, where he finds Gogi sleeping outside on a bench with a bag of his own. Hilariously, when Hyung-woo pokes him awake, he jerks upright with a “Hello?” as though he’s answering a phone. Haha.
Hyung-woo wonders if he should just go along with the divorce since this is taking its toll on him too, to which Gogi retorts, “Are you the only one who has it hard? Marriage is tough for Mr. Go from Jeju Island too, and for Hirayama in Japan, and also for Obama in America.” (HA! to the Miss Riley reference.)
Eun-jae meets Young-joo, who’s drinking after kicking Gogi out. The women rant together about husbands who accuse wives of nagging without considering their own wrongs. Eun-jae says that she’s made her final decision today take things to their bitter end.
The next morning, she calls Hyung-woo to the roof and speaks to him in jondaemal — a fact that takes him aback, since they’ve spoken to each other in the familiar banmal all this while.
(In Korean, once you go from the polite jondae to banmal, you almost never go back. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is when boys grow up and go from using banmal to jondae with their mothers out of respect, but that’s not a universal rule.) In this case, it indicates Eun-jae’s determined to cut ties fully and treat him like a stranger. Or maybe just an acquaintance.
She tells him that she’s no longer his wife Eun-jae, but the lawyer handling his wife’s divorce case. Ha! Oh, this should be good if they’re both representing themselves. Disastrous to their lawsuit, for sure, but great for entertainment value.
Hyung-woo argues that he and Hee-soo are nothing to each other, but Eun-jae tells him he’s the one who made her doubt him. And even now, he has failed to provide a reasonable explanation. He still can’t bring himself to out with the truth (about working on her Mom’s case), but vows to keep this divorce from going through, and she’s basically all, Bring it.
Hyung-woo’s mother arrives at Hope to ask Eun-jae about the contract for her building. Hyung-woo belatedly hears that the two ladies left to deal with contract, and hurries off to prevent disaster.
Eun-jae recognizes the storefront the minute they arrive, realizes the situation, and tries to stall. But Mom-in-law urges her inside, and without a good excuse for why she can’t go inside, Eun-jae cringes and waits for the other shoe to drop.
Mom’s mouth drops to recognize her and calls out her name. Hyung-woo pulls up to the store and joins them just as his own mother is wondering why they know each other.
He looks at Eun-jae anxiously as she goes from confusion to understanding, as she realizes that her husband has been consulting with her estranged mother.
Like girlfriday has pointed out, you can see the argument both for why this couple should divorce, and why they’re better off together, which is one of the drama’s strengths. Even though I find myself leaning toward Eun-jae in this episode — mostly because I find it incredibly frustrating that Hyung-woo won’t explain his suspicious behavior but asks her to trust him anyway — I don’t think it’s all his fault, either. It’s a case where these two have such different styles of handling things, and on a daily basis it really matters that two people be on the same page if they’re going to try to live together.
I can sort of (barely) get why Hyung-woo chooses not to tell Eun-jae about her mother’s case, even though it’s the chief source of aggravation for me. Even if he didn’t tell her the whole truth about where he was or what he was doing, he could offer some kind of explanation other than “I wasn’t cheating, why don’t you trust me?” If it was a simple case of her asking where he was and him saying he couldn’t reveal it, maybe he could invoke that trust clause. But when she’s caught him in multiple lies, he doesn’t really have a leg to stand on.
But I can see that he’s not at liberty to tell Eun-jae about the Mom situation, not just because he promised her and promises are important, but because he’s acting as Mom’s lawyer, and now he’s bound by his professional code of ethics. Attorney-client privilege, and all that. Plus, it’s been established that Hyung-woo is the fiercely idealistic one, so it makes sense that he takes that part of his job extremely seriously. It’s just that his way of handling Eun-jae’s doubt and his lies is so ineffectual and lame — which is why I’m vastly relieved that the secret has come to an end with this four-way showdown.
Can I take just a minute to talk about Hot Bartender, aka Ha Suk-jin? For some reason I find myself really drawn to his character, and I promise it’s not (just) because he’s hot. (By the way? He should totally play Siwon’s older brother in something.) It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been waiting years for Ha Suk-jin to act in something decent, either, after seeing him in lackluster dramas and then having him pick a couple of those dailies that I never watch. But there’s something about his character that I like, the guy who stands by and watches painfully as the woman he loves (or at least has a crush on) cries over another man who doesn’t treat her the way you can see she deserves to be treated. It’s very Jung Il-woo-esque from Unstoppable High Kick, which is the story line that basically got me to watch 160+ episodes of that show. Sadly, I really doubt the show is going to delve into his character that deeply, but I’d love it if they did; it’s almost like Jung Il-woo’s High Kick character ten years later (and therefore totally legal). It’s almost enough to make me root for him instead of the dense hero.