We take some significant steps forward in several storylines, which makes these two episodes rather satisfying (although there are certain other aspects that are less than gratifying, admittedly). But if we must deal with an increase of wrought emotions and mother-daughter angst, at least we get lovelines stepping it up all around to soften that blow. ‘Cause the more we see of Bread Man, Gentle Doc, and Dorky CEO, the better. I’m certainly not watching this show for the birth secrets, that’s fo’ sho’.

SONG OF THE DAY

Sesame Seed and Cotton Candy – “속마음” (Inner feelings) [ Download ]

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EPISODES 15-16

The mothers meet. Mi-ryung says all the right things to Soon-shin’s mother, not knowing that they’re exactly the wrong things to say in this situation: that Soon-shin must take after her mother for being so bright and modest, and that she’ll take good care of Soon-shin (career-wise) if Mom would “entrust her to me.”

Mom fumes internally through the litany of praise, and stands firm on her no-acting rule. Mi-ryung attempts to argue that Soon-shin is a special case, which makes Mom increasingly aggressive until finally she snaps, “Don’t mess with my daughter.” Telling Mi-ryung to butt out, she stomps off.

Mom goes home raging bitterly about the woman who would dare teach her how to raise the daughter she herself abandoned. Mi-ryung also goes home terribly insulted, and it makes her more determined to succeed with Soon-shin.

For now Soon-shin is still living out of the rehearsal studio, running her lines at every opportunity, though at the moment she’s hit an emotional wall, reciting the breakup scene dialogue without much emotion. Hye-shin calls to advise her to come home and soothe Mom’s ruffled feathers, and Soon-shin says she’ll do that after her audition.

The sisters urge Mom to let Soon-shin come back home, asking what happened to her supportiveness and patience. (Good questions.) Mom snaps at everyone that she isn’t going to trust anybody anymore and neither should they. Furthermore, she says defensively to Grandma that she worked her tail off being a good daughter-in-law all these years, and now she’s going enjoy her life instead of “sacrificing like a fool.”

To that end, she orders her gobsmacked daughters to start giving her a cash allowance. Yeesh. All well and good, except doesn’t wielding pleasure as revenge rather knock you off that moral high ground?

Mom’s outburst has Grandma feeling confused and gloomy, and Bread Man Jin-wook happens by as she works in the garden. Thankfully Mr. Bread has a cheering effect, and his teasing about her age (“Fifty? Forty?”) lifts her spirits. He is too sweet. He’s also blessed with the worst timing in the world, because Yoo-shin catches him gaping at her mid-stretch (her rear end stuck out in his direction) and pegs him for (even more of) a perv.

Then as he walks to work, he happens to be trailing behind Woo-joo on her way to school, who shoots him glares and forces Mom to hurry along so as not to share the same space with him. Poor Bread Man. He sighs to himself, wondering whether he ought to return to his gosiwon lifestyle.

Still in a temper over the Mi-ryung encounter, Mom heads over to the restaurant, where she grabs Soon-shin on her way to acting lessons. Mom gets even angrier and delivers an ultimatum: Either go home with her now, or go to her acting class and cut ties for-ev-ah. Yeah, I know. It’s really hard to feel sympathy for her at this point, and I was already at the breaking point.

Soon-shin tries to ask for a middle ground, but Mom literally declares that this means Soon-shin has chosen never to see her again. Whoa there, Drama Mama. She storms off, leaving Soon-shin devastated.

Soon-shin continues her audition preparation, still stuck on that line reading of that teary breakup scene. Mi-ryung coaches her through it despite feeling frustrated at the emotional block, and curtly dismisses Yeon-ah when she calls, saying she’s busy with Soon-shin.

Now that she’s determined to win Soon-shin that audition, Mi-ryung doubles her efforts and checks with Jun-ho to see who else is expected to audition. He says he’s not expecting her to pass—this is just to build up her experience—but Mi-ryung won’t be satisfied with that. Having faced Mom’s disdain head-on, now she wants to show her.

She takes it a step further by taking a meeting with the director to add some pressure on that end, too. He’s uncomfortable at the idea of being made to cast her protegé, but Mi-ryung presses, using her own casting as leverage.

Mom comes home with her arms full of expensive clothes, to the shock of Grandma and Chicken Ajumma. For somebody who’s set on enjoying her life, she sure doesn’t look like she’s having any fun, just sayin’.

Still shaking with anger, Mom tells her friend that she met Mi-ryung and barely tamped down the urge to spit in her face. “I want to get revenge,” she growls. Uh… yes, because that’s the important thing here?

Then Mom demands that Hye-shin hand over her husband’s cell phone number, because she’s going to give him a piece of her mind and warn him not to cheat, basically. Hye-shin argues that it’s unnecessary, and Mom snaps for her to move back to Hong Kong, then, since men can’t be trusted to live apart from their wives without cheating. Sigh. Remember when Mom was sweet? I miss that Mom.

Woo-joo drops by the bakery to asks Bread Man Jin-wook to move out. Aw. Despite wondering whether he should do just that, Jin-wook replies that he’s a legal, contracted tenant, which disappoints her hopes. Then he asks why she lied about Chan-woo being her father, only to get flustered into silence when she counters, “Ajusshi, you like my mom, don’t you?” Hee. He insists he doesn’t go after married women, and of course she’s not about to fix that misconception.

Having requested info on the dead man’s family, Manager Hwang realizes with a sinking heart that Mom is the wife. The kicker, though, is that the youngest daughter is named Lee Soon-shin, and he nervously approaches her to ask about her family and confirm that her father recently died in a car accident. Gulp.

After giving up on acting, Yi-jung indulges in the sulks, and to cheer her up her mother promises to set her up with a great guy, like the doctor at Dad’s clinic. Yi-jung perks right up, and Mom even schedules an appointment with Chan-woo to size up his character.

Chan-woo impresses her with his caring attitude and polite demeanor, but when she asks about his relationship status he informs her that he’s taken. Mom walks out sighing that it’s such a shame.

Chan-woo picks up Yoo-shin for their movie not-a-date (which turns out to be Temperature of Love), during which she spends the whole time fidgeting through the bed scenes and eyeing all the happy couples around them.

After the movie, Yoo-shin rejects his offer of a drink or dinner, and calls him out on him taking advantage of the “just friends” excuse. She’s not wrong about that, though her anger seems irrational given that she admits that she felt something for him. She accuses him of using those feelings to toy with her, and declares that she won’t be friends with him.

Chan-woo shouts right back that he doesn’t want to be friends either, and that he’s using those reasons as an excuse to date her however he can. Aw, and yay for frank declarations! There are enough people in this drama hiding truths and being passive aggressive that a clear-cut conversation is such a welcome change. He doesn’t understand her reluctance to date given her admission of feelings—good point, I say—and says that if she’s worried about their families finding out, they can keep it a secret from them.

At the restaurant the next day, Young-hoon is his usual sweet self by teasing Soon-shin about not forgetting him once she’s famous since he’s her No. 1 fan. Yoo-shin drops by to deliver a fresh set of clothes, prompting a wave of dorky primping by Jae-bum, who’s so flustered that he calls Yoo-shin “unni.” HA.

Yoo-shin’s actually nice today, telling Soon-shin that it’s not her fault that Mom’s so worked up—Mom’s depression just happened to coincide with Soon-shin’s acting.

Then she asks hesitantly if little sis still likes Chan-woo. Ah, is that why she’s being so contrary? That’s actually sweet, albeit expressed in Yoo-shin’s trademark backwards way. Soon-shin guesses correctly that she’s asking because Chan-woo wants to date her, and swears up and down that unni has the wrong idea—she doesn’t like Chan-woo romantically at all.

Jun-ho catches the exchange and guesses that that’s why she’s suddenly able to tap into her emotions. This time, Soon-shin’s audition reading is spot-on and realistic as she tells her fictional ex she’ll be fine, that she was thankful for their time together, and that their memories together will keep her happy. The last teary line ends, “But if there’s a next life, would you marry me then?”

Mi-ryung is pleased with the improvement as well, and gives Soon-shin a new dress to wear to her audition. Soon-shin practically glows at the praise and tries on the dress proudly.

However, the mood quickly takes a turn when Manager Hwang tells Mi- ryung whose daughter Soon-shin is. They don’t seem to have made the Soon-shin = birth daughter connection, but the link to the hit and run accident is enough to spook them mightily. They wonder if that’s also why Mom came by the other day, to talk about the accident and not Soon-shin’s acting.

Audition day finally rolls around, and Soon-shin looks around wide-eyed, intimidated by her competition. Jun-ho actually scoffs, saying that they’re plastic surgery beauties (oh, so now you get to feel superior about her being natural? Ha), and declares, “You’re the prettiest.” Cute.

But they’re informed of a last-minute emergency: Soon-shin’s name isn’t on the audition list. There’s no paperwork, and the producers won’t allow her to audition. Jun-ho gets the confusing news from the director, who tells him that Soon-shin was withdrawn at Mi-ryung’s personal request.

Mi-ryung claims that Soon-shin was a terrible actress whose initial potential was vastly overestimated, and although this makes no sense to anybody who’s seen her recently, she pretends like this is how she always felt. Unfortunately she does have a point telling Jun-ho he has no right to lecture her, given his bet with Yeon-ah.

So Soon-shin can’t audition, and Mi-ryung ignores all her calls.

Now that Dr. Shin has gotten his daughter to quit acting, he’s much friendlier with Mi-ryung. Almost too friendly, in fact. Over drinks, she shares that she’s always been unlucky in live, and that acting was her way of escaping her own misfortunes. He commiserates with her, since they’re both people who seem like they’ve got it all, but who’ve worked their butts off to get where they are.

Mi-ryung tells him her first impression was right—that she’d thought they were quite similar, and that’s why he disliked her so much. Then when she mentions the man who died in the accident, he advises her sympathetically not to regret her past, and look forward. Not surprisingly, that advice appeals to her.

Mi-ryung tires of Soon-shin’s calls and snaps at Jun-ho to break the news so she’ll stop pestering her. Jun-ho can’t bring himself to tell her the bald truth, so he tries a roundabout approach by suggesting a new teacher, feeling guilty when she says she’s sorry to disappoint Mi-ryung by not doing better. She also resists the idea of swapping teachers, because Mi-ryung was the first person in her life to see promise in her.

Jun-ho gets more confused, then, to hear that right before the audition Mi-ryung was actually talking to the director to pressure him into using Soon-shin. What could possibly explain the turnaround.

Yeon-ah is his answer, and while it’s totally the wrong one, you can’t really blame him for jumping to that conclusion. He accuses her of interfering to thwart him in the bet, which has her genuinely surprised since she knows nothing of it. However, she points out that he’s acting awfully fixated on the bet, a bet that she could swear was only half-seriously made.

The unnis decide to bring Soon-shin home and confront the issue with Mom head-on. So they shove her in a room with Mom with orders to beg for forgiveness, only she just gets the cold shoulder. Seriously, Mom? I swear, I’m trying to see your point of view in this, but it’s hard when you’re so damn passive aggressive.

Soon-shin hangs her head and apologizes, and tells her that she won’t be taking any more acting lessons. In addition to missing the audition, Mi-ryung must have been disappointed in her. Mom snaps, what about Mom being disappointed in her? Ugh. You’d think Soon-shin actually did something wrong in this scenario from the martyr complex her mother’s sporting.

Sitting outside, Soon-shin notices a light on in the basement—oh riiiight, she doesn’t know about Bread Man. This is gonna be good.

Jin-wook wanders out at the smell of cooking meat, and gets a broom to the head. And neck. And arm. Soon-shin screams, “Thief!” and wails on him repeatedly, bringing the family into the yard in alarm.

My favorite part of this bit is the way Jin-wook instinctively takes cover behind Hye-shin, who has to fill Soon-shin in on what she missed. Ha. He’s a little miffed at the attack, but accepts the family’s offer to eat with them. See, bacon cures all things. Well, all things not cured by chocolate.

Mom calls Mi-ryung to confirm that she really is going to stop teaching Soon-shin, and gets the same line—that Soon-shin wasn’t talented, and that she was disappointed in her paltry efforts. Aw, now this is a kind of pain I can feel for, since not only does Mom feel like Soon-shin picked her birth mother over her, the birth mother doesn’t even want her.

So Mom confronts Soon-shin and blows her lid, throwing that new dress on the floor and screaming, “Do you even know what she said about you?” Eeeek. Don’t tell her, don’t tell her. But of course she does, and repeats the ugly words Mi-ryung said (and makes them even uglier, sadly).

Soon-shin can’t believe the caring teacher would say that and starts to argue that it was her own fault for being a poor student, until Mom just yells at her, “That woman threw you away!” More than you’ll know, honey. She yells that Soon-shin shouldn’t have come back home, and that she should’ve just lived with Mi-ryung. And just when I was so close to seeing Mom’s side…

In the morning, Jin-wook insists on helping Hye-shin put out the laundry to dry, and unknowingly picks up a handful of lingerie. In his horror, he knocks into the drying racks and falls over and soon there’s underwear everywhere! Mostly on or around him.

Worse still, Yoo-shin steps out and recognizes that it’s her panties he’s fumbling around with. Not doing a lot to rehabilitate that perv image there, buddy. On the upside, at least Hye-shin finds it funny and chokes back a laugh.

Adding insult to injury, at work Bread Boy peers curiously at Jin-wook’s new injuries and goes POKE! “It looked fake,” he says sheepishly. Haha.

Yoo-shin thinks back to Chan-woo’s comments at the theater and seriously considers his offer to date secretly. So she calls him out and makes his day by accepting the proposal, but only on certain conditions. She slaps a dating agreement down on the table, listing conditions that he’s only too happy to accept: (1) The relationship ends as soon as their families find out (because they’d be insufferably nosy and take sides), (2) They’ll respect each other’s work spaces (her love live could make her the target of gossip), and (3) They won’t constrain each other (with nagging or hovering).

Chan-woo has a condition of his own, too: While they’re dating, they’ll respect each other and do their best. She agrees, and finally they’re both happy, together, at the same time. It only took eight weeks!

The already high-strung Manager Hwang’s nerves take another hit when he runs into Reporter Park—the guy Manager Hwang mouthed off to one drunken night after being fired briefly by Mi-ryung. He tries to pass it all off as crazy ramblings, but the reporter’s not about to let him off the hook and asks, “Is it true she has a daughter?” Given that Manager Hwang’s terrible poker face is only to be rivaled by Chicken Ajusshi, the reporter pretty much figures it’s all true and insinuates that he’ll be tracking down the daughter.

When he asks Mi-ryung about “that child,” telling himself that Daddy Lee surely took her to the orphanage, Mi-ryung cuts him off. That chapter of her life is closed, and she’s not going to revisit it. Or, you know, admit it ever happened. Denying it is totally the same thing as it not being true!

Manager Hwang turns his attention to getting to the daughter first, and something triggers his memory. He takes another look at the background report… and Soon-shin’s birthday… and tells himself it can’t be. To make certain, he calls his investigator and makes another report request: a man named Park Bok-man. Chicken Ajusshi, yes?

Soon-shin mulls over all of Mi-ryung’s kindnesses and decides to see her face to face, heading to her house with those sweet buns she brought last time. Oh, honey. This is so gonna hurt.

Soon-shin waits at the gate with naive optimism, while back at the restaurant Jun-ho hears that she left early to go to acting lessons. Realizing what that must mean, he beelines it to Mi-ryung’s house. Drive faster! He’s not gonna drive fast enough, is he?

Mi-ryung arrives with Yeon-ah, who’s back in her good graces since she’s the only protegé left, I guess. She tries to brush Soon-shin aside with the excuse that she’s busy, but when Soon-shin persists and asks if Mi-ryung gave up on her because she was so bad, Mi-ryung gives her the answer plainly: “Well, at least you know it.” Ouch.

She tells her coldly not to come around anymore, ignoring Soon-shin’s pleas to say one last thing. She pushes past her while Manager Hwang shoves Soon-shin back, which sends her sprawling to the ground. Even Yeon-ah’s surprised at the coldness, but Mi-ryung barely spares her a second glance.

Jun-ho pulls up and yells at Soon-shin, asking why she would come here and subject herself to this. He’s fuming mad on her behalf, and so caught up in the moment that when Yeon-ah asks to speak with him he doesn’t even miss a beat as he says flatly, “I have nothing to say to you.”

Grabbing Soon-shin by the wrist, he pulls her away from the house.

 
COMMENTS

Both good and not-so-good things in this week’s episodes. On one hand, I like that our relationships take a drastic shift and that some truths are discovered. Not necessarily by the people we want to be discovering them, but at least it’s out there, making the rounds, and it’s just a matter of time before it’s revealed. It was a much smaller conflict when only Dad knew about Soon-shin’s birth and he literally went to the grave keeping that secret. Then Mom found out, but she’s so closed-mouthed that it felt like she’d take it to the grave as well—and with that much pent-up resentment, it feels like her bitterness is going to kill her from the inside out.

But now you have the wild-eyed Manager Hwang (who can be trusted with no secrets, really) and a shrewd reporter out to sniff out the truth. Finally the secret spirals out of the control of those determined to silence it, and that injects some energy into a fairly straightforward plot.

On the other hand, I continue to be frustrated by Mom, who is the most perplexing character and one who’s so difficult to root for that I can’t help but wonder whether there was a fundamental flaw in her character construction. I’ve been pretty patient with her thus far because I’ve seen enough family dramas to know that you’re just going to spend a stretch of episodes feeling annoyed at or frustrated with certain characters (and often that happens with all the characters, in turn). It’s part of the rhythm. Spun in a glass-half-full way, that’s part of the charm of these shows, because people are actually allowed to be flawed and realistic, not wholly good or bad, who don’t always act in honorable ways.

However, what’s particularly upsetting about Mom’s reaction—even more than the outbursts, the unfair accusations, and the misdirected rage—is that she’s holding something against Soon-shin that she can’t control. She’s resentful of Soon-shin’s very identity, and that’s really starting to piss me off.

Let’s say that her version of the truth were totally true, and that Dad cheated on her and foisted his love child on her to raise. Mom acts as though being “tricked” into it negates the whole of her maternal experience with Soon-shin. I understand that she’s probably reacting to her worst fears, that she probably doesn’t actually believe all that, but it’s really very off-putting. As though Soon-shin’s paternity retroactively invalidates the twenty years of bonding. To take an optimistic look at it, maybe we can tell ourselves that the aggravation now will make the turnaround that much sweeter when it finally comes?

I do like how the Mi-ryung storyline developed, and that we have that relationship fracturing here. Mi-ryung loved playing Mom while she got to feel good about herself for it, but when things got even the least bit hot around the collar for her, she was happy to drop Soon-shin like a hot potato. It really is a nice callback to the whole “She threw you away” line, because it’s not something Mi-ryung did just once in her desperate youth, but something she’s quite comfortable doing as it suits her. Given how Soon-shin lost one Mom as she bonded with Mi-ryung, this is Mom’s turn to step it up and show us all what real mothers are about. Let’s hope she can actually rise to that challenge.

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