Perfect Wife: Episode 12
This episode makes my head swim with all of its new information, sideways feints, fake-outs, and U-turns. It’s amazing that Jae-bok manages not just to keep her temper under control when it comes to Eun-hee, but to keep her head clear enough to stay a half step ahead of her nemesis. Jae-bok is turning out to be one of the smartest K-drama heroines in my recent memory, and while I may not always find her the most likable character, I’m constantly impressed with her ability to outthink and outlast a woman who’s had years to plan her downfall.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Witnessing a woman spanking her child reminds Eun-hee of her own mother’s uncontrolled attacks and sends her into a frenzy. Jae-bok tries to restrain her before she hurts herself or someone else, but Eun-hee fights back, screaming and flinging her arms wildly. Suddenly she collapses to the ground, unconscious.
She’s taken to the hospital, and eventually she wakes from a dream of voices yelling at her to Get lost! (Interestingly, one voice in particular sounds like Jung-hee.) She finds Jae-bok hovering over her bed, worried, then over her shoulder, she spots Hyung-sun entering the room.
The sight of the woman who made her childhood a nightmare triggers Eun-hee again and she jumps out of bed, screaming at her to leave. She tries to physically shove Hyung-sun out of the room, so Jae-bok holds Eun-hee in her arms and tells Hyung-sun to go for now.
Hye-ran and Won-jae rush to the hospital at Jae-bok’s call, but Hyung-sun is standing guard outside Eun-hee’s door and refuses to let them in. Won-jae says that she’s a psychiatrist and offers to go in alone, and Hyung-sun relents.
Won-jae’s attempts to soothe Eun-hee into talking to her fail, though Eun-hee does crack a tiny smile when she sees Jae-bok rolling her eyes as she participates in Won-jae’s breathing exercises. Eventually, Jae-bok softly asks Eun-hee if she was abused by her mother, and Eun-hee confesses that she and her brother were both verbally and physically abused as children.
Won-jae determines that seeing a mother abuse her child is a trigger for Eun-hee, and Jae-bok asks if that’s why Eun-hee refuses to call Hyung-sun “mother.” Eun-hee nods and sincerely thanks Jae-bok for being here.
Na-mi slips into the SJ Construction building to get a glimpse of Jung-hee, despite Eun-hee’s threats to keep her distance. Jung-hee was warned by Sam-kyu that Na-mi would probably pop up soon since she’s badly in need of money, so he’s shaken but not really surprised when he hears her voice call his name.
Tears well in his eyes and he hugs her tightly, grateful to see that she’s really alive. But then he remembers Boss Jo snickering over the things Na-mi did with him for money, and he pulls back from her. He demands to know if it’s true that she was paid to approach him and who put her up to it.
Na-mi hangs her head and apologizes, admitting that that’s how it all started. She tries to tell Jung-hee that she developed real feelings for him, but Jung-hee interrupts to accuse her of showing up again now that he has a better job and makes more money.
His voice cracks as he says that he truly cared about her and that he grieved when he thought she was dead. But he yells that it was all a lie, and he tells her to go away and never show herself to him again.
Left alone with Hyung-sun in the hospital hallway, Hye-ran mentions that she heard that Hyung-sun is Eun-hee’s mother and gets a lecture on gossiping for her trouble. Jung-hee learns of Eun-hee’s collapse and rushes to the hospital, earning a narrow-eyed glare from Hye-ran when he calls Hyung-sun “mother.”
Eun-hee lights up when Jung-hee enters her room, and when she tries to downplay what happened, Jae-bok insists that something did happen, and that it involves their children. She pulls him outside to talk to him, shushing her friends when they make snide comments about him running to Eun-hee’s side.
Alone in her room, Eun-hee thinks back to when she and Jung-hee were together. She remembers being at a concert and feeling like she was the only person in the audience, as if he were singing directly to her. She jumps out of bed and rips out her IV, ignoring Hyung-sun’s pleas for her to stay put and rest.
Jung-hee grows worried for Hae-wook when he hears she’s been wetting the bed from stress over her parents’ divorce. Jae-bok takes him to see Hae-wook, and he hugs her while Jin-wook watches Jae-bok closely.
Jae-bok suggests that she and Jung-hee live together again while the kids adjust to their new situation, though she refuses to move back into Eun-hee’s house. She says she’s found a place they can all stay, but Jung-hee only says that he’ll think about it while looking like he’s hiding something.
Na-mi wanders aimlessly as she thinks about Jung-hee’s rejection earlier today. A little girl runs past her with her mother close behind, calling out the name Eun-kyung. Na-mi suddenly remembers hearing Hyung-sun calling Eun-hee by that name the night she broke into the house, and she hurries home to tell Bong-gu.
Sam-kyu is there bumming ramyun again, so Bong-gu and Na-mi are careful to speak quietly so he can’t overhear. Na-mi tells Bong-gu that Hyung-sun called Eun-hee by the name Eun-kyung, and he quickly calls Jae-bok.
She’s with Won-jae and Hye-ran, and at first the name Eun-kyung doesn’t ring any bells. Then their eyes go wide and they shriek in unison, “Lee Eun-kyung!!”
A flashback to the three friends in high school shows them sneaking out of night class to go to the movies (HA, they’re planning to see Beat, one of Go So-young’s early movies). On the way they pass a gang of girls harassing a nerdy student — the girl they knew as Eun-kyung.
Jae-bok had waded confidently into the cluster of girls, ignoring their smack talk (“What’s with the hair? Who do you think you are, Go So-young?!” Hee) and taking them on all by herself. Soon the thugs were pacified, and Eun-kyung had gazed at Jae-bok with an adoration verging on hero worship.
Eun-kyung had fawned over Jae-bok after that, bringing her food and gifts monogrammed with their initials, “K&B.” She’d been obsessed, so eventually Jae-bok had asked her to stop bringing the gifts. She’d suggested that they all just be friends, but Eun-kyung had refused, unwilling to risk “losing” Jae-bok to Won-jae and Hye-ran. She’d screamed “Get lost!” over and over at the two, then she began leaving nasty notes and pulling pranks in an attempt to scare them away from Jae-bok.
Remembering that the Eun-kyung they knew was plain and awkward, the three friends wonder if she had surgery to change her looks. But Won-jae remembers Eun-hee mentioning that she went to college in Canada, and they all recall that Eun-kyung’s stalking only ended when she moved away to Canada.
Before she’d moved, Eun-kyung had thanked Jae-bok for being her first and only friend, and said she would never forget her. She’d promised to come back and live with Jae-bok forever, rejecting the idea that she might meet a man and get married, “Because you’re the only one for me.”
As they think about it in the present, Hye-ran wonders why Eun-hee’s target seems to be Jung-hee and not Jae-bok. Won-jae thinks she must be out for revenge on Jae-bok for not returning her feelings.
Jae-bok puts Hae-wook to bed and asks if she wanted to stay with her daddy like Jin-wook chose to do. Hae-wook admits that she did, a little, but she thought her mommy would be lonely without her. Jae-bok hugs her little girl, telling her that she’ll never be lonely as long as she has her children.
Na-mi meets with Brian and tells him that she wants to go back to work for SJ Construction to be near Jung-hee. Brian decides that it’s not a terrible idea and offers to make it happen, though he clarifies that he’s not doing it for her love for Jung-hee. He says that he wants her where everyone can see her, in order to save her life. To himself, he adds, “…So my sister can’t sin anymore.”
The following morning, the company bigwigs wait outside to greet the Director of Planning, who also happens to be the chairman’s son. It’s Brian of course, suited up and looking every inch the businessman. Jung-hee tries to introduce himself, but Brian just acts as though his outstretched hand is the “paper” in a game of rock-paper-scissors, and he tosses out scissors with a wry expression.
In his office, Brian declares Jung-hee’s work subpar, quipping that it’s probably because he only got the job through his connections. He introduces Jung-hee to his new assistant, Na-mi, and the atmosphere goes chilly when Eun-hee comes to see Brian and spots Na-mi there.
It’s a brilliant idea, to make Na-mi very visible so that Eun-hee will hesitate to harm her again. In private, Eun-hee asks Brian if he distrusts her that much, but instead of answering, he asks her for a favor.
A while later, Na-mi is attacked and shoved into the stairwell by a raging Eun-hee. She warns Eun-hee that she can’t do this, reminding Eun-hee of Brian’s request not to touch her because he has feelings for her. But she yanks Na-mi by the hair anyway, saying that she doesn’t care about her promise, and she warns Na-mi not to step out of line or she’s dead.
After Eun-hee leaves, Na-mi remembers searching Brian’s villa when she’d been sequestered there. She’d found a photo of a young Eun-hee with Hyung-sun and Brian, and she’d pocketed the picture. She looks at it now, vowing to use them the same way they’ve been using her.
Jae-bok asks Jung-hee how he feels about having Na-mi back at work. He says honestly that it’s strange now that he knows her true nature. He adds that he plans to stay living in Eun-hee’s house, though he stumbles over his answer when Jae-bok asks if it’s because he has feelings for Eun-hee.
Jae-bok questions his commitment to his children if he’s willing to continue living away from them, knowing that it’s hurting them. But he argues that having their parents live together isn’t necessarily the best thing for them… and besides, he likes living in that big fancy house. He asks Jae-bok to move back into the house, determined to show her what a great person he is.
Hye-ran calls Jae-bok, certain that she’s found the Lee Eun-kyung they knew in school, and as they suspected, she had her face totally redone after moving away. She sets up a meeting where “Eun-kyung” thinks she’s going to see a mutual friend, and at the same time, we see Eun-hee also heading to meet with someone.
Eun-hee finds the restaurant and chooses a table. The three friends enter a few minutes later and approach from behind. Jae-bok calls out, “Eun-kyung-ah,” and she turns her head… but it’s not Eun-hee. It’s a completely different woman, though she behaves as though she knows Jae-bok, giving her a big hug.
Eun-hee is actually meeting with Bong-gu, ready to tell him what she wants from him. She offers him SJ Construction’s entire legal department to run as a reward for completing a task. Bong-gu repeats that he’ll do anything she asks, and as they discuss what Eun-hee wants from him, Hyung-sun takes picture of their conversation from a nearby table.
Jae-bok and her friends leave their meeting with Eun-kyung, impressed with how different she seems now. Jae-bok just smiles a tiny little smile, since she secretly kept in touch with Eun-kyung ever since high school. Jae-bok had worried when they lost touch, but Eun-kyung said she’d just been busy with her husband and children and thanked Jae-bok for helping her through hard times.
The friends come across Bong-gu leaning on his sports car, offering Jae-bok a ride. She jumps in while Won-jae and Hye-ran gape jealously, wondering if Jae-bok has something going on with the young, handsome lawyer.
Jae-bok asks Bong-gu how things went with Eun-hee, and he says it went well but won’t give her any details. That’s because Eun-hee tasked him with seducing Jae-bok, and he struggles to hold his usual carefree mood in place. He tells Jae-bok that she’s a good friend to him, but when she turns her attention away, he looks uncomfortable and worried.
The first thing Jae-bok notices when she arrives at Eun-hee’s house is that the massive wedding photo of Eun-hee and Kyung-woo is gone. Nobody answers Jae-bok’s calls, and she stands at the top of the stairs, determined to uncover every single one of Eun-hee’s secrets.
Behind her, Eun-hee silently creeps close, but just as it looks like she’s planning to push Jae-bok down the stairs, Jae-bok whirls and sees her there. Flustered, Eun-hee says that she heard Jae-bok calling her name, and Jae-bok points out that she was calling the name “Eun-kyung.”
All innocence, she tells Eun-hee that she heard her mother call her Eun-kyung and asks why she changed her name. Eun-hee says she just likes this name better, and when Jung-hee arrives home right then, Jae-bok suggests they all talk.
Jung-hee again suggests that Jae-bok and the kids move back into the house. Eun-hee is so eager to be alone with Jung-hee that she actually offers to pay for Jae-bok to get another place. Jae-bok pulls out her lease, proving her right to live here if she wishes, and agrees to Jung-hee’s plan to share joint custody of the kids.
Hye-ran finds Mrs. Park in the locker room of the gym where she works, yet again slandering her to anyone who’ll listen. She bars Mrs. Park from running away again, and the two go out for some competitive drinking.
They make a bet that if Mrs. Park gets drunk first, she’ll never show her face to Hye-ran again. Mrs. Park triumphantly downs an entire bowl of alcohol in one go, and when Hye-ran tries to match her, she passes out cold.
In the music studio, Eun-hee shows her irritation to Jung-hee and tells him that Jae-bok makes her uncomfortable now that the two of them are together. Jung-hee mumbles that it’s for the kids, so Eun-hee reminds him of the promise he made to her the day she promoted him: that he would do as she says from now on.
She instructs him to make Jae-bok and the kids move somewhere else. Jung-hee begs Eun-hee to allow them to stay, so she asks him for a different promise — to marry her. Jung-hee balks, so Eun-hee coos that it would make her feel more secure in their relationship if they were engaged.
Hyung-sun isn’t happy to see Jae-bok and the kids back in the house or Won-jae and Che-ri, who came for a housewarming party. Dinner downstairs is a silent, tense affair as she and Eun-hee listen resentfully to the laughter coming from upstairs.
The party is interrupted by a call from Mrs Park… haha, she’s piggybacking the too-drunk-to-walk Hye-ran but doesn’t know where she lives. Jae-bok directs her to Eun-hee’s house, where they’re all surprised when she greets Hyung-sun. She even recognizes Eun-hee and calls her by her real name, Eun-kyung. Moon Eun-kyung.
Eun-hee refuses to acknowledge Jae-bok’s questions, though Jae-bok and Won-jae both feel the name is familiar. Won-jae asks if Jung-hee knows the name Moon Eun-kyung, but he says he’s never heard it before. Both Eun-hee and Hyung-sun let out pent-up breaths at that, though Jung-hee throws Eun-hee a strange look before going back upstairs.
At work the next day, Bong-gu practices his lock-picking skills, and Jae-bok has to laugh at how cute he looks when he’s concentrating. He finally pops the practice lock and stands on his desk to celebrate at the top of his lungs.
At work, Jung-hee thinks about Eun-hee’s proposal the night before, and he seems to make a decision before putting away his picture of himself with Jae-bok and the children. A few days later, Jae-bok finds him on his way to work on a Sunday, and though he starts to say something to her, he stops himself. As he gets in the car, he guiltily turns away from the happy faces of his children waving him goodbye.
Jae-bok is also called in to work, but before she goes, she sneaks to the third floor and tests the door to the craft room. She uses Bong-gu’s technique to pick the lock, and soon finds herself in front of the mysterious curtain once again.
She pushes aside the curtain, and just like last time, she finds nothing suspicious behind it. At least, until she notices something sticking out from behind the piece of plywood that holds innocent crafting ideas. She removes the board, and what she sees behind it makes her blood run cold.
Below a piece of cloth monogrammed with “K&H” are pictures of Jung-hee, dating all the way back to before Jae-bok knew him. There are even photos of private moments between Jung-hee and Jae-bok, such as the time he was frantic with worry over her in the emergency room.
But the pictures that really scare Jae-bok are the ones from their family trip to the amusement park several years ago, and she remembers Jung-hee asking a random stranger to take the pictures. That “random” stranger was Eun-hee, who was following them as she’s evidently been doing for years and years.
Jung-hee isn’t going to work as he told Jae-bok — he’s on his way to his engagement party to Eun-hee. Bong-gu is there too, and he calls Jae-bok to give her a heads-up on what’s about to happen behind her back.
As Jung-hee and Eun-hee head into the party, Jae-bok comes running into the hotel lobby to confront them, with Bong-gu right behind her.
Once again, Perfect Wife simultaneously surprises and confuses me. So clever, to show us Jae-bok’s entire high school history with a stalker named Lee Eun-kyung, only to have her turn out to be a red herring all along. So who is Moon Eun-kyung, and why do both Jae-bok and Won-jae find her name so familiar? And while I’m asking questions, why was the current-day Lee Eun-kyung played by Lee Yu-ri, who cameo’d in the first episode as Bong-gu’s divorce client? Maybe there’s an innocent explanation, like maybe that was when she and Jae-bok reconnected after losing touch. But this show doesn’t seem to make mistakes or do things for no reason (like repeat a cameo), so I can’t help but wonder if there’s more to that scenario.
Backing up to the top of the episode — I think it was very compassionate and very true to Jae-bok’s nature, that her immediate response to Eun-hee collapsing was to take care of her and protect her. Jae-bok seems at first to be gruff and even slightly cold, but before anything else, she’s a mother. As calculating and devious as Eun-hee has been to Jae-bok, there’s also something very lost and vulnerable about her, and I think it’s natural for Jae-bok to respond to the abused child in her. It’s the same thing Jae-bok did with the other Eun-kyung back in school by wanting to use her personal strength to shield someone she deemed needful of protection.
As frightening and dangerous as I think Eun-hee is in her current state, the more we learn about her past, the more I think that instead of seeing her punished, I would love to see Jae-bok help her get well. Mental illness isn’t a crime, and while Eun-hee is absolutely responsible for her harmful psychological manipulation of Jae-bok and her family, if you think about it, she hasn’t actually done anything criminal. She’s only played mind games, confusing and coercing Jae-bok and her family, and she’s even issued threats, but nobody has been physically hurt yet (even Hyung-sun’s attack on Na-mi that led to her supposed death was an accident). So far I see nothing in Eun-hee’s behavior that indicates that she intends to actually harm anyone, because even her threats have yet to actually go anywhere. I’m not saying she couldn’t escalate to hurting people, but as of yet, she hasn’t crossed that line. It would be wonderful if Jae-bok could find a way to support Eun-hee while she seeks treatment, the same way she kept in touch with Eun-kyung and helped her with her problems, and be the friend that Eun-hee needs so badly. I think she could be exactly what Eun-hee needs — firm and strong enough to withstand Eun-hee’s shenanigans, but compassionate enough to offer the love and support Eun-hee never received from her own mother.
As for Jung-hee, I don’t even know what to think of him anymore. He claims to want to show Jae-bok that he can be a good husband and father, yet the very next day he agrees to marry Eun-hee — why? He doesn’t even seem to like her very much, and in fact, he looks very uncomfortable around her, as if he senses that something isn’t right but can’t quite put his finger on it. With his ex-wife telling him that Eun-hee is volatile and possible dangerous, why would he turn around and marry her? He’s going to get quite a shock when he realizes that she’s the same girl he dated once before. And I still think that something pretty terrible happened between them, something that may have even caused him to suppress his memories of her.
But right now I’m most worried about Bong-gu and his involvement with Eun-hee. I truly believe that Bong-gu’s main concern is to help Jae-bok, and that he only offered to work for Eun-hee in an attempt to discover her true intentions. But Eun-hee has the ability to cut straight to people’s deepest desires, and I couldn’t help but notice the spark of greed that flashed in Bong-gu’s eyes, just for a second, when she offered to hire him to run her legal department. It’s what Bong-gu has always wanted — money, respect, power. Not only that, but I don’t think he’s even opposed to seducing Jae-bok, because he obviously finds her attractive. I’m scared that he could decide that doing something he would probably like to do anyway is a small price to pay for a high-powered, highly paid dream job, and I fully expect the show to make us believe that Bong-gu has been coerced by what Eun-hee is offering. But so far he’s still on Jae-bok’s side, as evidenced by his warning to her about the engagement party. I can only hope that Jae-bok’s positive influence has had enough time to alter Bong-gu’s priorities so that he can resist Eun-hee’s siren call and avoid becoming her latest conquest in her plans to bring Jae-bok down.