Sly kicked its game up a notch or three this week, rounding the halfway mark with a full head of steam. The antics of our leads in the first part of the episode are adorable, while the heartbreak — and there was a sizable amount of it this chapter — rings true. Jung-woo’s family make their first appearance, while Ae-ra’s family continues to make me happy by taking up less screen time. Secrets come out and more of the picture is revealed, for the audience no less than the characters. We also see big strides from both of our second leads, as circumstances goad them into acting on their previously hidden feelings.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Ae-ra and Jung-woo prepare for the CF shoot, neither overjoyed about working with the other. Jung-woo is worried about rumors starting about their relationship, but Ae-ra says it will be fine if they just shoot the CF quickly and get it over with.
She gives his costume the once-over and says he should act with confidence. He snorts that she’s one to talk, and the implied jab at her costume (and lack of cup size) causes her to cover up with outraged modesty.
When they actually begin shooting they do surprisingly well, prompting the director to comment that they look like they’ve acted together before. Secretary Gil wisely observes that a situation like this would increase their affection for each other even if it didn’t exist in the first place. He then tells grumpy, acne-stricken Song-hee that she’s sitting in his seat.
Jung-woo calls Yeo-jin during a break to complain about the CF. She offers to stop by later with some food, to which he responds with a resounding negative. Yeo-jin has also heard about the last-minute change in actresses, and we see after she hangs up that she is not happy. She scolds her secretary for not reporting to her before choosing Ae-ra as Song-hee’s replacement.
In the make-up room, Ae-ra glowers at Jung-woo in the mirror and remarks that she looks just fine. Jung-woo wonders why she keeps glancing at him, then hilariously swirls his cape to hide his tight spandex pants.
Song-hee reports to the rest of the advertising team, complaining about how Ae-ra gets to cozy up to the CEO. Seung-hyun replies that it’s just the concept of the CF, but he proceeds to text Ae-ra asking if she’s still working. She replies immediately that they’re working her to death and she hasn’t even had a chance to eat.
Jung-woo’s next task as the DonTalk superhero is holding up an inflatable model of the Earth. Ae-ra is busy texting with Seung-hyun, so she doesn’t notice when the breeze from an oversized fan snaps the tether securing the Earth model and threatens to knock over several heavy props.
Jung-woo throws himself between Ae-ra and a falling column. It may only be a stage prop, but it’s heavy enough to leave a nasty gash on the side of his head and knock him out cold. It looks like a serious injury, and a distressed Ae-ra accompanies Jung-woo to the hospital.
Yeo-jin wakes up from a nightmare. This may be a recurring problem for her, because she gulps down a pill from a bottle she keeps in the dresser nearby. The camera lingers on a shot of her prosthetic leg poking out from under the blanket.
Seung-hyun swings by the site where the CF was shot, hoping to bring Ae-ra some dinner. He hears that the CEO suffered an accident and rushes to the hospital. He calls his sister immediately, but she is in the grips of a deeply medicated sleep and doesn’t hear her phone.
At the hospital, Ae-ra tells Secretary Gil that it was her fault Jung-woo was injured, and that she’ll stay with him. He leaves, promising to bring Jung-woo’s clothes the next morning. Seung-hyun reaches Jung-woo’s room at the hospital, only to see Ae-ra tending to Jung-woo with obvious worry. He doesn’t go inside.
Watching over Jung-woo triggers Ae-ra’s memories of the day she fell sick while selling clothes outside. As many of us feared, she did have a miscarriage, and Jung-woo slept through the phone call from best friend Min-young. Ae-ra cried that day in the hospital waiting room, just as she’s crying now that Jung-woo is injured.
The next morning, Yeo-jin hears of Jung-woo’s accident and rushes to the hospital. Ae-ra has spent the night there, still in her costume and makeup. Yeo-jin thanks Ae-ra for staying with the CEO, but says that she should leave now. She even offers her car and driver to make sure that Ae-ra gets safely home.
Jung-woo wakes up just after Ae-ra leaves, and Yeo-jin is the first person he sees. Yeo-jin tells him it’s a relief he woke up.
The next day at work, everyone gathers to watch a news interview with Jung-woo, where it’s announced that the new software functionality is expected to raise stock prices even more. Jung-woo responds confidently, not looking at all as if he spent the night in the hospital after rescuing a damsel in distress.
Yeo-jin and Jung-woo argue about the future direction of the company, and Yeo-jin reflects that they never agree where work is concerned. Jung-woo maintains that they’re still good partners, “because you can protect me and I can trust you.” The argument is put aside for the moment, and Yeo-jin asks if Jung-woo has some free time later.
Sunbae Song-hee confronts a sleepy Ae-ra at her desk, offering her some tissues to wipe off her drool. Ae-ra asks if she can say something impertinent, then scolds Song-hee for being wasteful by offering too many tissues (HA!), as well as printing documents in color. Song-hee has no chance to respond, as Yeo-jin has just arrived for a meeting with Ae-ra and Team Leader Wang.
Yeo-jin compliments Ae-ra on her work and asks her to help with a new product launch, effectively going over Team Leader Wang’s head. Ae-ra goes back to her desk with a bounce in her step, and Seung-hyun observes that she seems very happy to have been complimented by the director. Butter wouldn’t melt in Ae-ra’s mouth when she replies that she’s just glad to have met someone who thinks about the company in the same caring way that she does.
Ae-ra and Yeo-jin plan a marketing strategy for the company, and Ae-ra offers some useful advice about the target demographic. After work they go tie-shopping, and Yeo-jin admits that the tie is a gift for the man she likes. Ae-ra remembers exactly how Yeo-jin described him, so she recommends a tie that will give the mystery man a softer image. Yeo-jin claims that a woman giving a man a tie means “I want to have you,” and admits she’s going to confess when she gives him the tie. Ae-ra cheers her on, no idea that the tie’s intended recipient is her ex.
After tie-shopping Yeo-jin treats Ae-ra to dinner at a fancy restaurant. They talk about Ae-ra’s many jobs and how DonTalk compares, and Yeo-jin reflects that Ae-ra seems to have been hurt deeply by her divorce. “Is there any divorce that doesn’t leave scars?” Ae-ra asks rhetorically. “I may look like I’m laughing, but inside I’m crying.”
Jung-woo approaches their table — ah, so Yeo-jin scheduled their dinner so that Ae-ra would see them together — in time to overhear some of the conversation. Ae-ra says that although she detested her ex, she recently saw him get hurt and it made her feel terrible. She admits, “I’m not sure what this emotion is…”
Yeo-jin responds immediately that it’s probably just sympathy, and Ae-ra shouldn’t read too much into it. Yes, and you’re a completely objective outside observer, Yeo-jin…
Jung-woo gets a call from his mother that leads him to cancel the dinner with Yeo-jin. He waits for Ae-ra outside, however, and asks her to go with him to visit his parents — his father is in critical condition.
The drive fills in a few blanks for us regarding Jung-woo’s family. His father was affected by the failures of Jung-woo’s business, and Jung-woo feels guilty about his father’s current poor health. In a flashback, we see that Jung-woo’s father is a sweet man who often helped Ae-ra out of difficulties, like when he turned an old-fashioned rice pot into a makeshift fishbowl to cover up Ae-ra’s disastrous attempt to make rice without an electric cooker.
Jung-woo reveals that his father had a stroke three years ago, and the few times he regained consciousness and recognized his son, he asked to see Ae-ra. They arrive at the house, but they’re too late. Jung-woo’s father has passed away.
As Jung-woo mourns his father’s passing, he remembers how his father supported him through all his hardships. He encouraged his son to look to the future and follow his dreams, saying that the hard times Jung-woo suffered would soon become distant memories.
The moment is even more heart-wrenching because Jung-woo thinks it’s his fault, that the stroke his father suffered could have been avoided if he’d only succeeded sooner, or made different choices. Ae-ra silently offers Jung-woo a shoulder to cry on, bickering momentarily forgotten.
Yeo-jin eats breakfast with her father, and they discuss the news about Jung-woo’s father’s death. Yeo-jin tells her father off for trying to set her up with Robert Kim (the punk who got a well-deserved punch in the face from Jung-woo last episode). President Kook says he doesn’t want his daughter to suffer for someone else’s happiness.
Yeo-jin replies, “But that’s also happiness… even if you don’t know that.”
After Yeo-jin leaves the table, President Kook examines a picture of his wife and children. He sighs that he’s the woodcutter from the fairy tale, and he doesn’t want the fairy — his ex-wife — to leave him and take away his children.
Ae-ra calls in to work to take a personal day for the funeral, prompting Song-hee and Team Leader Wang to gripe about her lack of consideration. Then the news of the death of the CEO’s father comes out, and Team Leader Wang has the whole team take a day off to go to the funeral as well. She insists that people come before business, though her colleague worries that it may be inappropriate to show up, since the CEO said he wasn’t accepting gifts or visits from employees.
Meanwhile Ae-ra helps out during the funeral service, though she receives little thanks for her efforts. Jung-woo’s mother and older sister remark that Ae-ra is really shameless to show up now, when she never visited during the three years when Father was bedridden.
Ae-ra overhears the worst of their spiteful comments — specifically, that it’s a relief Ae-ra and Jung-woo broke up before they could have children. Jung-woo’s family couldn’t have chosen words better calculated to wound Ae-ra if they’d tried, but instead of marching over to treat them to a proper scolding (as I kept hoping she would do), Ae-ra just stands there.
In the rice soup restaurant, Ae-ra’s family laments how Ae-ra was treated by Jung-woo’s family — her mother-in-law always looked down on her for her poor background. Ae-ra’s mother and father disagree about whether it’s appropriate for Ae-ra to attend the funeral or not, while Soo-cheol Oppa reflects that these kinds of problems are what make divorce so difficult.
Team Leader Wang arrives with the marketing team in tow, only to find Ae-ra hard at work. They think she took a personal day to curry favor with the CEO by helping with the funeral, which, if true, would be a rather presumptuous move on her part. Rather than admit her real relationship with Jung-woo, Ae-ra says that’s exactly why she’s here — she wants to score points with her boss.
Song-hee and Team Leader Wang talk about Ae-ra behind her back, shocked at her cunning side, which angers Seung-hyun. He says that if Ae-ra is kissing the ass of the CEO he’s going to do the same thing, and leaves the table to help Ae-ra wash dishes.
Song-hee, astounded, wonders if she just got dissed (the answer is yes, dear). Manager Kam reasons that Seung-hyun must like Ae-ra, and Team Leader Wang makes the whole team follow Ae-ra’s lead by putting on aprons and lending a hand.
Jung-woo’s sister overheard Ae-ra’s colleagues, so she confronts Ae-ra about going to work for Jung-woo’s company. She tells Ae-ra that she’s disgusted by her sly intentions, while Ae-ra just stands there and takes it. Thankfully, Jung-woo comes around in time to tell his sister to stop yelling at Ae-ra.
As Jung-woo walks away with Ae-ra, his sister calls out that it’s Ae-ra’s fault that her father collapsed. Jung-woo explains that his father did collapse after hearing about the divorce, but he insists that it’s his own fault rather than Ae-ra’s.
Yeo-jin arrives at the funeral, and overhears Song-hee speculating that Ae-ra intends to stay late at the funeral. Then Yeo-jin sees Jung-woo and Ae-ra together, with Jung-woo comforting Ae-ra while she cries.
Yeo-jin leaves a flower at the memorial shrine, but she doesn’t perform the traditional bow. She tells Jung-woo it’s for religious reasons, but more than likely it’s because the motion would be difficult if not impossible because of her prosthesis.
Jung-woo’s mother charges in, incensed at the news that Ae-ra is working at Jung-woo’s company. She’s all smiles, however, when she’s introduced to Yeo-jin and finds out that this is the rich, single daughter of the family that invested in Jung-woo’s product.
While Jung-woo’s mother sucks up to Yeo-jin, Ae-ra walks past and catches Jung-woo’s eye. His expression softens as he watches her, and they stand still for a long moment. Seung-hyun sees them looking at each other, however, and pulls Ae-ra away to talk with her alone.
Seung-hyun asks Ae-ra if she likes the CEO, and why she does things that will lead to people pointing fingers at her and cursing her. He isn’t mad that Ae-ra came early to help with the funeral, but he hates seeing her swallow her pride while trying to keep everyone happy. It’s more like her to be confident. His own frustration leads him to say more about why he hates seeing her act this way, but Manager Kam interrupts by saying that they’re all set to go.
It’s an awkward car ride back home, with Song-hee and Team Leader Wang making snide comments about Ae-ra being so dedicated to succeeding at work. Seung-hyun maintains a broody silence as he stares out the window.
After all the guests have left, Jung-woo remains next to his father’s memorial shrine. He remembers Ae-ra’s offering from earlier that day, when she laid a cup of coffee by the shrine and, tears starting to fall, apologized to her father-in-law that it was only instant coffee. The next time she comes to pay her respects, she will make the special “daughter-in-law coffee” her father-in-law likes so much.
In the present, Jung-woo wrestles with bittersweet memories, while the car with the marketing team makes its way slowly back to Seoul.
I think this week’s episodes may have been the strongest yet. Part of that comes, I think, from the decision to give much less screen-time to Ae-ra’s family and Yeo-jin’s father. They even deserve some credit, because the few times they showed up this episode they were actually rather sweet — although I certainly don’t condone President Gook’s decision to purchase a husband willing to ‘disregard’ his daughter’s physical disability, no matter how pure his intentions were. Shame on you, Dad!
Moving the spotlight away from many of the tertiary characters allowed our leads to really shine in this episode. The section with the DonTalk Superman CF was hilarious, and the transition to the hospital scene did a great job of showing the second leads’ growing awareness of the connection between Ae-ra and Jung-woo. We also see how deep their relationship still is when Ae-ra is so reluctant to leave Jung-woo’s side. She has at least as much reason to resent him as he does her, but when he’s hurt, she puts that aside and takes care of him.
Jung-woo’s family certainly came as a surprise, but — I think — a welcome one. In the span of a single, fairly short flashback, the relationship between Ae-ra and her father-in-law melted my jaded, frozen heart. For the brief duration of that car ride my imagination ran away with me — I was envisioning an episode or two in which Ae-ra and Jung-woo have to pretend to be happily married in order to keep a recovering father-in-law from relapsing (at this point, remember, we hadn’t been told that his collapse occurred after learning of the divorce). And of course, Father-in-law would figure things out, and then milk his convalescence in order to manipulate Ae-ra and Jung-woo closer together. As you can see, I had Episodes 9 and 10 all written out in my head, and I was sold… but it was not to be. The fact that the writing team killed off the father before we even really got a chance to see him was, to me, the great tragedy of this episode. Still, even if it didn’t quite go the way I hoped, the inclusion of Jung-woo’s family was an excellent decision. I only wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.
Somehow, the spitefulness of Jung-woo’s female relatives drew me deeper into the story, as compared with the actions of Ae-ra’s family in earlier episodes, which mostly damaged my engagement with the plot. Adding Jung-woo’s family into the mix this episode gave the show some needed depth, and what’s even more important, it allowed us to see a clearer picture of the relationship between Ae-ra and Jung-woo. When one of them suffers, they put aside their bickering and support each other — first in the hospital, and then during the funeral.
So far it has only been Ae-ra doing the supporting, but I’m confident that will change. If Jung-woo ever learns what we had confirmed for us this episode — that Ae-ra suffered a miscarriage near the end of their marriage — his guilt over not being there for her will surely go a long way towards helping him move past his own pain.
While I’m glad Jung-woo doesn’t share his sister’s belief that Ae-ra is to blame for his father’s stroke, I’m less than thrilled that he still clings to the idea of blame. It’s almost selfish for him to shoulder all that blame alone. Of course, this is better than Jung-woo blaming Ae-ra, but I would like it even more if Jung-woo believed that his father would want him to forgive himself and continue to live life as best he can.
And now for Yeo-jin, who in spite of the slightly makjang backstory is fast becoming one of my favorite rom-com second leads. She goes a little further this episode with her plans to get in the way of Ae-ra and Jung-woo reuniting, but somehow I don’t mind her stratagems all that much. Most second leads subscribe to the idea that all’s fair in love and war, but Yeo-jin doesn’t cross any of the lines that hateful second leads usually do when they’re fighting for their men. She hasn’t fired Ae-ra or done anything to discredit her; she’s just trying to make sure that the divorcees stay divorced. I can forgive moments like Yeo-jin’s evasion in the hospital or her plan at the restaurant, because they didn’t seem to spring from hate or jealousy, just a desire to show Jung-woo how she feels.
As Yeo-jin tells her father at one point during the episode, she’s doing everything she can to make another person happy — and that’s her own definition of happiness. I say good for Yeo-jin, and I can only hope that she’ll accept her eventual disappointment — because at this point I don’t see how things will end well for her — with good grace. She’s already risen above the loss of her leg with admirable poise, and it may be that she will show similar composure when faced with a broken heart.
I find myself really looking forward to the next episodes. Once Jung-woo gets a better handle on his grief, he’ll be forced to revise his opinion of Ae-ra, and that will drastically change their dynamic in the workplace. Meanwhile, Seung-hyun is having trouble maintaining his cool when he sees Ae-ra struggle with her feelings for Jung-woo, and I can see a satisfying conflict shaping up when he finally discovers the truth about her relationship with his hyung.
Keep up the good work, Sly — you’ve raised my expectations, and I really hope you don’t let me down!