This drama gives me the warm fuzzies. I love all the characters because they’re so genuinely flawed – hilariously stubborn, fiercely prideful, stupid when it comes to love. Basically, they remind me of real people. For a drama about breaking up, there sure is a lot of love, so much so that I alternately want to slap them upside the head and give them bear hugs, every five minutes. Also, can we have Hubby face off with HotBar in every episode? So. Awesome.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
So the in-laws finally meet, each brandishing the other’s child as legal counsel in their land wars… which turns out to be as awkward as you’d expect. Suddenly the moms go from shouting at each other in banmal to tacking on awkward formalities in jondae because now they’re in-laws and forced to be polite. (Funny, another instance of the banmal-jondae reverse in this drama.)
Eun-jae storms out of course, and Hyung-woo chases her down to explain. She screams at him for meeting her mother behind her back, and he argues semantics with her, that he wanted to tell her but was unable to, and was about to get permission. While I get hubby’s train of thought, that would never fly with me either.
He tells her that consulting on the land deal was the whole reason for canceling their Japan trip, and suggests they go back inside to work things out. She scoffs at his inability to read the situation – he clearly doesn’t seem to understand just how bad things are between mom and daughter. She storms off.
He returns to the restaurant to try and smooth things over between the moms, but it’s a rough road ahead. Eun-jae’s mom puts on a cheery face, but once everyone leaves, she sighs as she looks down at her pictures of Eun-jae’s wedding, which she wasn’t invited to, and had to watch from a distance. Sad.
She calls Eun-jae who answers coolly, and when Mom asks if it isn’t tiring to be so cold and cut her off completely, Eun-jae reminds her that she’s the one who abandoned her daughter. Mom has nothing to say in her defense, and Eun-jae tells her not to call anymore.
Flashback to the Mom-daughter breakup conversation: Mom had decided to go back to “that man,” when he fell ill and had no one to take care of him after his children abandoned him. Eun-jae refused to let her mom go through pain or heartache again, thinking of the pain he’d caused their family, but Mom had insisted on going.
Eun-jae laid down the ultimatum: choose him and never see her daughter again. And in a fit of anger, Mom had chosen against her, shouting that she doesn’t need her mother anyway. Eun-jae took that to heart, and vowed never to see her again.
It’s not specified whether this man is her biological father, (perhaps a stepfather or just long-term ex-boyfriend) but either way he’s got a “legitimate” family elsewhere. From Eun-jae’s point of view Mom’s being stupid to take him back, especially since he never asked for her when he was healthy, but now needs her when he’s ill and his real family abandoned him.
Well it promised to be a doozy and it is. I can also see how Mom may have said all that in a burst of anger, not really meaning it, but Eun-jae’s cutthroat personality is much more exacting than Mom’s, and she meant it. She drew a line and never turned back.
Hyung-woo smoothes things over with his mom, who is displeased at both his secret-keeping and the in-law relationship she can’t undo (or maybe you can, yet). He sweetly tells her to try and get along with Eun-jae’s mom, since he doesn’t like to see Mom lonely. Aw.
She covers up and tells him that she isn’t, since she has two sons, and mentions hearing from his brother Hyung-joo, and takes the whole thing relatively in stride and tells him to worry about Eun-jae.
She does a better job of reading the icy air between Eun-jae and her mother, and guesses that it’s no ordinary rift, and that it probably tears her up to live without seeing her mother. That gives him pause.
When Hyung-woo returns to the office, Eun-jae is looking at the pictures proving their cheating husband case, and he jumps in to declare how he doesn’t understand how husbands can cheat on their pretty wives.
He tells her that at least the whole misunderstanding about cheating has been cleared up, since he was meeting her mother. She tells him that meeting Mom in secret is worse than cheating, because to her, it’s a bigger betrayal.
He doesn’t understand, because Mom asked him not to say anything what was he supposed to do? Oy. Eun-jae spells it out for him – if it were her in that situation, she would’ve come home and told him, and asked what he thought.
Eun-jae: “Because you’re the center of my life. But I’m not the center of yours. That’s why we’re always at odds.” Oof. It’s sad, but true.
To make her point that she’s serious about divorce, she drags him out to make the announcement in front of their staff. She tells them that they’ll either end it quietly in consensual divorce, or drag it out to court.
Hyung-woo insists that it’s not going to happen, while the Hope staff stands aghast. They already know, but it’s another thing to have it admitted to their faces. Woo-shik worries that Eun-jae is the type to see things through if she says she will, but Hyung-woo assures them he’ll change her mind.
He asks her for a conversation, and she agrees that she can’t very well avoid dialogue when it’s one of her own complaints about him in the divorce. Over wine he admits he was in the wrong about not consulting her before continuing to meet her mother.
He explains his thinking, that he assumed over time he could bring the two of them together to reconcile their differences. Eun-jae tells him this is another reason why they’re getting divorced – because he would continue to meet with Mom openly, and every time he came home, he’d tell Eun-jae to reconcile with her.
“And then I become the bad person for not seeing my mother.” I really like this aspect of Eun-jae’s character – that she has such fierce pride, and hates being forced to be the bad guy. It’s detrimentally fierce, in her case, but I think it makes her character so richly flawed.
She tells him that there are some scars that you don’t even want to look at, would rather pretend they didn’t exist, because they’ll remind you of the pain that caused it. And for her, that’s her mother.
He tells her that he understands (He clearly has some experience with this but isn’t letting on, perhaps to do with his brother?) but she tells him that he wouldn’t know unless he experienced that kind of pain firsthand.
He tries to take her home, but she reminds him that she kicked him out, and adds that he should address her not as his wife, but as Lawyer Lee, handling his wife’s divorce case. Ouch.
He heads home to mom’s house, and thinks over Eun-jae’s words. And then he takes out a picture from a drawer – it’s Hyung-woo, Mom, and Little Bro Hyung-joo. Knew it. Little Bro Angst, though over what, we don’t know.
At home, Eun-jae cries thinking of Mom, and starts talking at her out loud to herself. She asks why she hasn’t bought any clothes for herself, why she looks like that and suffers that way, why she doesn’t listen to her daughter. Aw.
She cries like a little girl, clearly hating to see her mom suffer, despite it all.
Hyung-woo surprises his mom in the morning, glossing over the whole kicked to the curb thing, and says that they’re spending some time apart while they work things out. He immediately starts nagging her for the mess in the house, and demands food, making Mom grumble.
What kind of kid is cleaner than his mom? That’s crazy. I love that Mom is already tired of his nagging, which is just such a great reversal from the norm.
Eun-jae starts her morning with a cold bowl of cereal and surveys the messy apartment, wondering if life could be this comfortable without nagging. It seems half happy, half trying to convince herself she’s happy.
The Hope staff discusses the divorce situation over lunch along with Soju, deciding that they have to try and intervene. Gogi and Soju fight over who should talk to Eun-jae, both clearly afraid of her. Ha.
But they’re more afraid of Professor Jo, who arrives at Soju’s call and flips out to hear that the couple has yet to call it quits on the divorce. He marches his little legs over to Hope to give them a piece of his mind.
The couple sits down, preparing for the worst, but to their surprise, the professor doesn’t even raise his voice, asking pleasantly if they’re planning to take the divorce all the way to the end. Eun-jae ekes out that she’s sorry, and he just nods and says that he’ll begin the proceedings so that it’ll be over quickly and quietly.
Hyung-woo flips out at the professor, thinking he was on his side, and storms out of the meeting angrily. Professor Jo finds him outside and slaps him upside the head for being a moron, and tells him of his plan to drag out the hearings so long that they have to reconcile. He warns Hyung-woo not to let it get to court though, and Hyung-woo hugs him in gratitude.
While Eun-jae works on the cheating husband case, Hyung-woo takes on a new case acting as a public defender for a juvenile, a teenage girl who got caught stealing a motorcycle.
He doesn’t ply her with questions, and instead asks advice on his own situation, specifically what would cause a daughter not to see her mother. She tells him it’s a sure thing that the mom abandoned the daughter.
He wonders how that could be, but the girl tells him that not all moms are fairytale mothers. Clearly reflecting on her own life, she mutters, “How can she abandon her daughter to go back to that man? That’s not a mother. That’s a stranger.”
He has enough insight to read into her words, and starts on a quest to find the girl’s mother. Why is it that you are super insightful and great with people, and yet have none of those qualities when dealing with your own wife?
He ponders the girl’s words along with Eun-jae’s insistence that her relationship with her mother is the unfixable kind. He looks up and realizes that he ended up in front of their apartment instead of going to his mom’s.
He wonders if Eun-jae is home and heads up, only to come right back down, grumbling that she changed the lock code AGAIN. And this is surprising to you? You were still technically living there when she did it the last time.
Eun-jae drinks and sighs that Hyung-woo is making things difficult by dragging out the divorce, and HotBar just tells her that no matter what choices she makes, even if they’re the wrong ones, he’ll be on her side and cheer her on. Aw, I love this guy.
She smiles, and says sadly that it’s something she always wanted to hear from Hyung-woo.
Hyung-woo sits outside and waits for her to come home, and sees her get out of her car… with HotBar behind the wheel. Oh dear. He gets immediately territorial and asks who he is, and Eun-jae nonchalantly introduces him as a dongseng (a younger friend).
HotBar braces himself for the inevitable awkward first meeting. Hyung-woo responds that there are MANY kinds of dongsengs, and she ignores him and tells HotBar he can go. But Hyung-woo’s having none of that, and insists on introducing himself. He puts out his hand for a shake.
HotBar takes his hand and introduces himself as Lee Tae-young (AH! So he DOES have a name!) and then they proceed to squeeze the hell out of the other’s hand, in a really pathetic display of machismo. Hee.
Eun-jae finally has to break it up, and HotBar says his goodbye, that he’ll see him next time. Hyung-woo reads into it too much, “Will there… BE a next time?” Tae-young just turns to Eun-jae and smiles at her sweetly, and with a hand on her arm, he says he’ll go.
Hyung-woo’s eyes bug out and as soon as he turns to go, he pulls Eun-jae close. She shakes him off and tells him not to think anything weird. Now the shoe’s on the other foot and he demands to know what their relationship is.
She vaguely just says that it’s complicated, but not anything he should misunderstand, and he rubs it in that it’s frustrating to be on that side, isn’t it? I’m not sure you want to go there, not that either of you is good at explaining away any doubt.
He follows her up to the apartment, still shouting, and she asks why he even came. He tells her that he missed her, and wanted to comfort her about her mom. She retorts, “I’ve already been comforted. By someone else!” Oooh, dayum.
Exasperated, he declares that they really are at odds with each other, and she’s like, duh, hence the divorce. In his anger, he relents that a day like today really makes him want to divorce her, and she just encourages him to comply then.
He’s not quite ready to do that, so he turns to go, nagging at her for the mess on his way out.
He comes home to Mom’s, complaining even more than usual about every little thing, sending her over the edge. She goes to see Eun-jae’s mom the next day, and they agree to keep the peace and even go back to banmal.
Hyung-woo’s mom asks her to call Eun-jae and beg her to take her son back, so that he’ll leave her alone and stop nagging. Heh. She sympathizes with Eun-jae’s mom, wondering how hard it must be for her to have such a strained relationship with her daughter.
Tensions run high at the Hope office, when Hyung-woo declines to take a congressman’s case that would have raked in a bunch of money. That leads Eun-jae to publicly declare the office is hers since she invested more into it.
The staff decides they can’t stand by any longer, and attempt to talk things out with the couple over lunch. But lunch turns into a battle over the minutiae of how to properly grill samgyupsal, and they’re forced to walk away from the screaming couple in embarrassment. Ha.
Eun-jae’s mom calls Hyung-woo to ask him out on a date, and she happily buys him an expensive dinner and asks him to go to a noraebang, where they sing to their hearts’ content. He walks her home hand-in-hand, and she looks so happy the whole time, it kills me.
When they reach her door, Mom tells him not to come by anymore. Aw. She says that she made Eun-jae lonely, so he needs to work things out and go back home (and stop making things hard for his mom, heh) and be there for Eun-jae.
He tries to say that he’ll make it work, but Mom just takes one last long look at his face, as her goodbye. It’s heartbreaking, that Mom is giving up her one connection to her daughter that she was so happy to have, and it sends the sensitive Hyung-woo over the edge.
He storms into Eun-jae’s office and asks angrily if she’s happy now that she has what she wants, and says that her mom won’t see him anymore. Hyung-woo: “There are people who don’t get to see family even if they want to!”
Eun-jae: “There’s family you’re forced to live with, even if you don’t want to!” He looks pained, as he asks, “So the family you’re forced to live with now… is me?” He wonders to himself if there’s any meaning in living this way.
Eun-jae goes to court for the cheating husband divorce case, and the husband ends up conceding to the divorce. The mother-in-law stands up to confess that he never cheated; it’s because he stood by her sick and now comatose daughter for over seven years, that she wanted to force him to move on with his life. She knew divorce was the only way to do so.
Aw. He embraces his mother-in-law, who tells him that he’s a son to her, and that this is what her daughter would have wanted for him. It moves Eun-jae, who’s shocked to realize she was wrong about the non-cheating husband, and also stirred by his relationship with his mother-in-law, who pushed him away for his own good.
She sits outside the courthouse, contemplating that relationship and her own, and then goes in to meet Hyung-woo for their own divorce proceedings. They sit down with Professor-Judge Jo, who refuses to leave the room when the shrink asks for their statements regarding the divorce.
Eun-jae starts, saying that the differences that drew them to each other initially became vast areas of contention between them in their marriage. But then she adds with tears in her eyes that she realized something, only today…
Eun-jae: That there’s an even bigger problem: I didn’t know love. If only I knew how to love properly, it would have been better. I never, not once, properly loved my husband.
Aw. She’s finally owning up to her faults, and opening her heart… only Hyung-woo takes it totally the wrong way. Instead of hearing it as “I never gave love properly,” he hears it as “I never really loved him.” (It’s easily interpreted both ways, though her intention is clear to everyone but Hyung-woo.)
He flips out, thanking her bitterly for teaching him something he didn’t know. She tries to explain that she’s attempting to tell him what she did wrong, and trying to work things through…
Oh no. Is she thinking of backing out of the divorce, only now you’re set to see it through??
He accuses her of putting on a show to get more sympathy in the divorce and shouts that the hearing isn’t going to settle this, not between them. “Let’s go! To court!”
Ack! Why do you not hear the words coming out of her mouth?! I don’t think Hyung-woo’s being unreasonable or even that quick to jump to his contentious conclusions, since he’s been pleading with her and she’s been so cold and definite about the divorce. It’s just… she was finally meeting you halfway… and then you pooped all over it! Aaaaaargh.
It looks like in the family dynamics, Hyung-woo empathizes more with Eun-jae’s mom because his experience is that of being the older brother who is kept from having a relationship with Little Bro, for reasons yet unknown. It makes sense then, that his feelings come down more on the side of Mom, wondering why Eun-jae has to be so cold and final, to cut off ties completely.
It’s sad because if these two ever managed to say things the right way, without attacking each other and getting defensive, they’d be great for each other. But they handle everything in the worst possible way, like when Hyung-woo storms in after parting with her mother in that accusatory tone rather than a sympathetic one.
When HotBar tells Eun-jae that he’s on her side no matter what and she sighs at hearing what she’s always wanted to hear… from the wrong person, it kills me. Because that’s sort of the whole reason to get married, to have someone in your corner at all times, but it’s never the case with Hyung-woo, and vice versa.
What I really like is that no matter which way the pendulum swings in this drama, there isn’t a hateful character anywhere to be found. Everyone is a sympathetic human being with circumstances and a distinct personality, and the conflicts arise out of natural disagreements and different ways of seeing things.
I so appreciate a drama without a set of horrid second leads or arch villains, because while they are an easy source of conflict, they’re also lazy writing, with little real-world relevance. I like that this couple’s main source of conflict is really themselves, and their vastly different views on everything from family to money to proper meat grilling. It asks the hilariously mundane but universally shared quandary: Can you live your whole life with a person who doesn’t know how to cook your bacon?
- Can’t Lose: Episode 5
- Can’t Lose: Episode 4
- Can’t Lose: Episode 3
- Can’t Lose: Episode 2
- Can’t Lose: Episode 1
- Stills from soon-to-premiere Can’t Lose
- Can’t Lose’s comic promo posters
- Choi Ji-woo and Yoon Sang-hyun as Can’t Lose’s warring couple
- Stills from MBC’s divorce romance Can’t Lose