Woman of Dignity: Episode 3
As tensions ratchet up this episode, Ah-jin struggles to juggle all the separate aspects of her life as Bok-ja’s grip on the household grows tighter by the day. Will our kindhearted daughter-in-law be able to spot the snake in the grass before it’s too late, or has Chairman Ahn’s heart already been lost?
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Joo-mi and Ah-jin discuss seeing Bok-ja and Chairman Ahn in bed together. Joo-mi is rattled and demands that Ah-jin recognize Bok-ja as a threat. Ever the calm presence in the household, Ah-jin simply tells Joo-mi to head out to work and leave the situation in her hands.
Coming back to her house in the wee hours, Ah-jin checks on her sleeping daughter. She isn’t concerned when her missing husband doesn’t answer his phone, but she does think it odd for Jae-suk to be awake so early.
After spending most of the night at Sung-hee’s apartment, Jae-suk declines her offer to stay for breakfast, adding that he has to get home to avoid suspicion. Looking at him seriously, Sung-hee says, “You should tell that woman.” Jae-suk looks at her in surprise, thinking that she’s talking about their affair, but Sung-hee just smiles and adds that he should tell Ah-jin that he started playing soccer in the morning.
While Ah-jin and daughter Ji-hoo eat breakfast, Ah-jin can’t answer Ji-hoo’s innocent question about where her father is. Jae-suk enters, lying poorly that he was out exercising. Ah-jin scoffs at his answer, and Jae-suk’s eyes fall on an open magazine of a man on a bike as he stutters, “I’ve been cycling.” Oh, simple Jae-suk.
Ah-jin is nonplussed, but Jae-suk changes the subject, asking, “Do I not get breakfast?” Ah-jin is still bewildered as she answers she’ll make it once Jae-suk washes up, and she brushes off the odd interaction.
Ah-jin tells Jae-suk about Chairman Ahn and Bok-ja’s night together, but Jae-suk isn’t fazed. He wonders whether it means anything, asking Ah-jin to consider it as Bok-ja working overtime and to give Bok-ja a raise, ha.
Ah-jin gives Jae-suk a withering glare as she asks if Bok-ja will be satisfied with that. Jae-suk finally understands what she means, but he declares it a ridiculous idea that Bok-ja and Chairman Ahn might actually get married.
Joo-mi confronts Bok-ja when she comes down the stairs in the morning: “Is this how you worked in the past? How many men have you deceived this way?” Bok-ja isn’t cowed though, and she lies she was just comforting Chairman Ahn until he fell asleep, since he gets scared at night.
Joo-mi accuses Bok-ja of leaving the door open on purpose, calling her a housemaid. This annoys Bok-ja, who demands an apology for the way Joo-mi is treating her. Needling Joo-mi further, Bok-ja says that if Joo-mi thinks it’s so easy to win a man over by sleeping with him, then why is Joo-mi still alone? (Burn.)
Joo-mi becomes enraged, and slaps Bok-ja. Bok-ja’s face is stone cold as she asks whether Joo-mi realizes that she could be arrested for assault in this day and age. Leaning into her menacingly, Bok-ja says that before she leaves this house, Joo-mi might end up in jail first.
Ah-jin receives a text from her meditation buddy Ki-ho, wishing his “partner” a good day. Ah-jin finds this nickname bizarre, but she gamely wishes him a good day too.
Needing an explanation for last night, Ah-jin confronts Bok-ja. Bok-ja has resumed her defeated pose and tone as she tells Ah-jin that it was just a misunderstanding. But Ah-jin isn’t ready to accept this and reprimands Bok-ja for crossing a line too large to forgive even if it was a mistake.
Bok-ja is contrite, and her voice wobbles as she pleads with Ah-jin to give her another chance. Ah-jin is clearly moved, and tells Bok-ja that she won’t be fired—yet. Ah-jin adds that Bok-ja will be strictly watched from now on, and Bok-ja hides her irritation at this.
Ah-jin dictates to housekeeper Mrs. Cho what changes she would like for the upcoming season in the house, deliberately asking Bok-ja to use different bedding for Chairman Ahn’s bed (since Bok-ja had insistently picked his bedding before). Before leaving, Ah-jin recalls that Mrs. Cho will be going to Pungsookjeong today.
In voiceover, Bok-ja explains that Pungsookjeong is an exclusive members-only food kitchen where the upper class housewives go to purchase their renowned kimchi and organic side dishes. Set up by a savvy former kitchen staffer, everything is paid for in cash and the kitchen is under the protection of the wealthy. It is also a hub for staff to gossip about their employers.
Just then, we see Mrs. Cho re-enacting the scene she witnessed between Joo-mi and Bok-ja to an enthralled audience of (presumably) other housemaids. Mrs. Cho swears that Bok-ja slept with Chairman Ahn, though the women laugh that after his stroke and diabetes, there wouldn’t be much he could do in bed. They are all puzzled over why Ah-jin didn’t throw Bok-ja out of the house, though.
Meanwhile, Ah-jin asks personal assistant Jin-hee to send over a copy of Bok-ja’s resume, but she doesn’t explain why and just breezily says that there was something she wanted to check.
Ah-jin’s lunch with her circle of friends starts awkwardly, as private cram school instructor Joo-kyung asks them to speak comfortably around her—even though she must know that she is the reason none of the other kids are attending her academy. All the mothers swiftly switch subjects and compliment Ah-jin on Ji-hoo’s talents, who has just been appointed the school’s representative for Korea’s national drawing competition.
Kyung-hee snipes that Ah-jin is already famous, but now she will get more famous because of Ji-hoo. Hyo-joo doesn’t notice the tension and recounts Ah-jin’s fairytale story of going from being a stewardess to marrying one of the Daesun heirs, noting that all men want to be with her. Kyung-hee pointedly says that this should be considered cheating, and laments that Korea no longer treats cheating as a crime.
Kyung-hee is being particularly blunt today as she asks Ah-jin whether she really hasn’t had any cosmetic surgery done. Kyung-hee’s remarks haven’t gone unnoticed, but Ah-jin keeps her cool as she says surgery isn’t embarrassing anymore, so if she had done it, she would admit it.
Ah-jin blithely asks Kyung-hee, “Do you feel embarrassed that you had your eyes and nose done?” The other women at the table exchange amused looks at Ah-jin’s elegant putdown, and Ki-ok exclaims that no cosmetic surgeon would be in business if everyone looked like Ah-jin.
Ah-jin confronts Kyung-hee in the bathroom and tells her that no secret is perfect, adding bluntly that it would be better to end the affair before Ki-ok finds out. But Kyung-hee decides to play dumb instead, refusing to admit to her wrongdoing.
Ah-jin clearly doesn’t believe this, but she says that she’s relieved that it was all just a misunderstanding, leaving a stunned Kyung-hee behind.
Chairman Ahn calls for Bok-ja and looks on fondly as she takes care of him before he asks her to watch a movie with him. As Breakfast at Tiffany’s plays, Bok-ja sighs that she always wanted a cat she could call just “Cat,” as well as someone she loved to look after it with her. Chairman Ahn looks genuinely happy as he smiles over at Bok-ja.
As Bok-ja feeds Chairman Ahn his dinner, she offers to go to physical therapy with him instead of his secretary. Bok-ja calls for Mrs. Cho, and asks her to take care of Chairman Ahn’s room today since she will be attending physical therapy. Specifically, Bok-ja asks Mrs. Cho to not go into her room.
Mrs. Cho is taken aback at the impertinence of Bok-ja’s request but acquiesces when it becomes clear that Chairman Ahn isn’t going to step in.
As Ah-jin looks over Bok-ja’s resume, Bok-ja narrates, “At the crossroads of truth, we often choose doubt over trust.” Coming to a decision, Ah-jin decides to call a lawyer, and she just happens to know one in the form of her meditation partner, Ki-ho. Ki-ho smiles upon answering, pleased that she called.
Ah-jin asks for a favor, since she wants to know if Ki-ho can investigate someone’s background if he has their social security number. Ah-jin wonders if this is too big a favor to ask, and Ki-ho readily replies that it is. Rebuffed, Ah-jin says she will find another way, but Ki-ho quickly demurs, explaining he was just teasing her.
Bok-ja’s narration continues, “It is because doubt is the best way to defend oneself… but no one can guarantee its outcome.”
Hyo-joo’s husband, Seo Moon-tak, is interrupted in his office by the hotel employee blackmailing Hyo-joo. As the owner of the hotel, Moon-tak threatens the employee, thinking that Hyo-joo must be having an affair with him for her to have asked for him to be promoted. The terrified employee insists that isn’t the case, but under the threat of having his head bashed in by one of Moon-tak’s golf clubs, the employee admits that Hyo-joo does have a man.
Moon-tak looks displeased but not surprised to hear this news. He menacingly informs the employee it hasn’t been long since he was a thug who used golf clubs to hit people rather than balls. Moon-tak warns the employee that he should listen carefully and do as he is told if he wants to stay alive.
Calling Ki-ok’s husband Sung-soo to request the pills that help in bed, Jae-suk continues to fall deeper into his affair with Sung-hee. Sung-soo smirks at the request, knowing that Jae-suk wouldn’t be asking for the pills for his wife.
It appears Jae-suk has actually bought a bike to keep up his morning ruse. He asks his beleaguered employee to send it to his house, and the employee leaves while covertly grumbling about the unreasonable things he is always asked to do.
Sung-soo puts on his mask to begin a cosmetic procedure on Hyo-joo, who has to be reminded that it isn’t safe to be given all her cosmetic treatments at once. Bok-ja narrates, “Human greed is boundless.”
As Mrs. Cho cleans Chairman Ahn’s room, she remembers Bok-ja’s warning not to clean hers. Mrs. Cho is curious though, and cautiously enters Bok-ja’s room. She sneers at the expensive bag sitting on Bok-ja’s dresser, but her attention is drawn to a notebook on the desk.
Inside, Mrs. Cho finds a picture of a little girl. She pulls out a piece of paper next and gasps at the overly detailed information Bok-ja has on Chairman Ahn’s health condition, family situation, and more. Just then, Bok-ja enters the room behind Mrs. Cho, startling her.
Bok-ja warns Mrs. Cho that she was asked not to come in here. Bok-ja remarks that the most unfortunate thing in the world is a person who sees what they weren’t supposed to, and one who talks when they’re not allowed, which sounds like a not-so-subtle threat.
Bok-ja’s demeanor is hard as she studies Mrs. Cho’s terrified expression and adds, “But I’ll let it go this time.” Mrs. Cho scurries away as fast as possible.
At physical therapy, Chairman Ahn looks to be in pain. His trainer exchanges a knowing glance with Bok-ja, who exclaims in a worried voice that Chairman Ahn should stop before he hurts himself. The trainer keeps pushing Chairman Ahn, who cannot keep up with the pace.
“People’s greed makes them want what they can’t have.” Bok-ja’s narration continues. “That’s when all of our misfortunes started.”
Back at the art gallery with the owner, Ah-jin recommends changes to the installation that impress the owner. But Ah-jin’s real reason for coming is so that she can ask the businesswoman for space in some of her stores for new Daesun products.
The two are friendly already, and the businesswoman compliments Ah-jin on her business acumen, noting that she is the reason that Daesun has grown into a giant conglomerate. Ah-jin is gracious in accepting this praise and thanks the woman for all the help she has given.
While riding with Chairman Ahn, Bok-ja conspicuously answers her phone from a “creditor” demanding payment. She yells, “I told you I’d pay you back.” Chairman Ahn notices, demanding that Bok-ja tell him how much her debt is so he can pay it. Though Bok-ja protests, she turns away to hide the smirk on her face.
Joo-mi can’t stop thinking about the words Bok-ja threw at her, and she grows more desperate as the scene replays in her head. Calling Ah-jin, Joo-mi pressures her to sort the situation out, but all Ah-jin can do is assure Joo-mi that she’s taking care of it.
Meanwhile, Bok-ja literally throws herself at Chairman Ahn’s feet to thank him for paying her debt. Chairman Ahn continues to enjoy the attention of an attentive woman as Bok-ja promises to dedicate her life to working as hard as she can for him.
The philandering Jae-suk goes to meet with Sung-hee at a restaurant. Sung-hee is nervous to be seen together in public, especially at a place so close to his house, but Jae-suk magnanimously states that this is just a business meeting and not something to be ashamed of.
But of course, Ki-ok is coincidentally there and raises her eyebrows at the sight of the two of them.
Kyung-hee taps makeup onto her bruised face while waiting for her lover, Sung-soo, at their hotel room. She falls into his arms and begins to weep that her husband has hit her again. Sung-soo is outraged and tries to play white knight, though Kyung-hee refuses to leave before her stepson Yoon-jae finishes elementary school.
Sung-soo admires Kyung-hee’s bravery as he comforts her, only for his attitude to change sharply when Kyung-hee reveals that Ah-jin might know about their affair. Sung-soo is obviously nervous that Ki-ok might learn of his transgressions.
Ah-jin visits Ki-ho at his office to obtain the information he dug up on Bok-ja. Ah-jin sighs that she thinks she may have been too trusting of Bok-ja, having believed her to be a good person. Though he says it nonchalantly, Ki-ok floors Ah-jin with the knowledge that Bok-ja has a criminal record for embezzlement and fraud.
Back at the Ahn Estate, Bok-ja helps Chairman Ahn get ready for bed before snuggling in beside him, unaware of what Ah-jin has discovered.
Ah-jin confronts Bok-ja later, informing her that she must leave the house before Chairman Ahn wakes up in the morning. Bok-ja’s mask doesn’t slip as she begs to keep her job. But Ah-jin is too rattled as she blames herself for allowing a criminal into Chairman Ahn’s life, pointing to Bok-ja’s duplicity.
Bok-ja sobs as she blurts out that Chairman Ahn paid her debt for her, and it would break his heart if he learned of her criminal past. She implores Ah-jin to allow her to stay just until his birthday, and she promises to leave right after. Bok-ja asks Ah-jin to understand that she isn’t a bad person because she went to jail, adding that she was just in a bad situation. “In the world there are people who are treated unfairly,” Bok-ja says.
Ah-jin relents in the face of Bok-ja’s earnest pleas, but she wants her to keep her promise to leave straight after Chairman Ahn’s birthday. Bok-ja is effusive in her gratitude, but Ah-jin still looks worried. Listening just outside the room is Mrs. Cho, who gleefully sneaks away.
Sporting his newly bought bicycle gear, Jae-suk bikes for a short while before abandoning it to hail a taxi to Sung-hee’s house. Leaving Ah-jin alone in bed again at the Ahn Estate, he and Sung-hee roll around playfully in bed together in her apartment.
Grabbing Jae-suk’s phone away from him, Sung-hee pouts to see Ah-jin programmed into his phone as “Queen Bee.” She asks what Jae-suk will call her, giggling and calling it ridiculous when he types out “CEO Yoon.”
At their yoga class, Ki-ok gossips about one of the local mistresses now playing second fiddle to another mistress before adding that she saw Jae-suk dining with another woman last night, which surprises Ah-jin.
However, Ah-jin laughs it off, saying that her husband could never cheat on her because he’s too clumsy and couldn’t handle two women at once. Ki-ok agrees and states that her husband could never cheat because he is too particular. Ah-jin looks concerned at Ki-ok’s confidence, knowing it to be false.
Bantering with Ji-hoo, assistant Jin-hee asks what type of man she should look for. Ji-hoo looks thoughtful as she says, “Someone… not like my dad.” (Smart girl!) Jin-hee wonders why not, and Ji-hoo explains that her dad has no sense of order or efficiencym, adding that he’s strangely tired in the evening even though he goes cycling in the morning. So even little Ji-hoo can sense that something is off.
At their regular golf game, Sung-soo compliments Jae-suk on his putting that day. Jae-suk replies that he has been putting it in well these days, causing Sung-soo to shake his head at the corny answer. Still, Sung-soo produces the pills Jae-suk requested while remarking, “This isn’t for your wife, is it?” Jae-suk laughs as he says that of course it isn’t.
The women are more interested in their plans after the golf game than the golf itself, with Hyo-joo crowing that she has reserved a place on a yacht for them. Four good looking men await them on the yacht, ready to pour drinks and play games.
The game of Jenga the women are playing with their male hosts is much tamer than what their husbands are doing, as we find them in a private club doing shots and picking out women from a procession to spend time with.
The young man on the yacht next to Ah-jin slips his hand around her waist, which causes her to sweetly ask him to speak in private. Grinning to have gotten so lucky, he praises Ah-jin for being so pretty and just his type.
Once they’re out on the deck, Ah-jin grabs his roaming hand and twists it behind his back. She warns him to keep away from her while everyone is having fun, making it clear she doesn’t act that way. Handing him a large bag of food, she recommends that he stay out here to feed the birds instead.
Mrs. Cho is back at Pungsookjeong gathering more gossip, and to pass on her own. She takes pleasure in informing the owner that Bok-ja is done for at the Daesun household.
But it looks like Chairman Ahn might have other plans, as he and Bok-ja go out for a date. He says it’s too ridiculous when Bok-ja compares him to the actor from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but the open smile on his face belies his words.
Going shopping together, Bok-ja looks wistfully at a pretty kitty sitting on a woman’s lap in the mall. Cut to: Bok-ja and a secretary returning to the estate, laden with a multitude of shopping bags… and a cat on Chairman Ahn’s lap.
Bok-ja asks the secretary to take a photo of her with Chairman Ahn and Cat (named after the cat from Breakfast at Tiffany’s). She tells Chairman Ahn that if he allowed her to dye his hair he would look twenty years younger, which pleases him.
Ah-jin visits her mother, who immediately fusses over Ah-jin for getting too much of a tan out in the sun. Feeding Ah-jin homemade food, Mom asks about Jae-suk’s stake in the family business, concerned now that Chairman Ahn is ill and a new woman might be on the scene. Ah-jin refuses to answer, saying that her duty is to make Chairman Ahn better again.
Mom replies that she understands and calls herself a bad woman for wanting to know the details. Mom asks whether Ah-jin still likes sour kimchi, and Ah-jin answers that it’s the kind she loves most of all.
Bok-ja’s narration lets us know that Ah-jin grew up without a father and had the kind of life where she had to learn to love sour kimchi. “But I didn’t know that until much later,” the narration continues.
A flashback to the past shows Ah-jin’s father putting on a French record as little Ah-jin danced happily on top of his feet. The grown Ah-jin looks down at the record with tears in her eyes as Bok-ja’s narration concludes, “Her father died when she was eight years old, and she never listened to his music again. If she did, she thought she would break.”
Back at the Ahn Estate, Joo-mi lies collapsed on the floor and clawing at the wall in fear when she sees Cat for the first time. Bok-ja picks up Cat, but doesn’t take it away. The smile on Bok-ja’s face doesn’t reach her eyes as she comments on how cute the cat is, and she knowingly moves it closer to an increasingly panicked Joo-mi. Just before Cat reaches Joo-mi, it is whisked away by an irate Ah-jin.
Ah-jin turns on Bok-ja. “What is this cat doing here? I’m asking you why it’s here!”
What really struck me this episode is how much pressure Ah-jin is under. She has to be the perfect wife and mother, run the household, be Joo-mi’s emotional support, and secure business connections for the family company. Though Ah-jin lives a privileged life in many ways, she does work hard and doesn’t have anyone to turn to for support. Her husband is cheating on her, and the relationship she has with her friends seems very superficial and even competitive. It was a relief to see Ah-jin relax around her mother, and her even her comfortable clothes reflected that brief bit of freedom she’s unable to enjoy on a normal day.
Bok-ja continues to be a mystery, though she is getting bolder as her grip on Chairman Ahn’s heart gets tighter. She still hasn’t shown her true face to Ah-jin, but it is interesting that she felt confident enough to reveal it to both Mrs. Cho and Joo-mi. Neither of these women wield the same influence as Ah-jin, and Bok-ja’s ruthless instincts come out when they cross her. At this point, the only adversary worthy of Bok-ja is Ah-jin, who doesn’t even know that a war is being waged. Even the revelation that Bok-ja was jailed for embezzlement and fraud wasn’t enough to turn Ah-jin’s kind heart—at least, not yet. And why was Bok-ja jailed? Has she done this con before, or is it related to why she wants to take down the Ahn family?
I would like to start seeing more of Ki-ho, please. The unforced lightness in his interactions with Ah-jin are enjoyable to watch. He puts her off-balance, which I think is a good thing for Ah-jin, who has to be so careful with her image otherwise. Maybe he’ll help her learn how to let loose just a little bit, or be a real friend for her to go to.
I do think this show is stronger as a psychological drama than a makjang parody. There are choices I find odd, such as the lighthearted music playing over the scene with Kyung-hee crying to Sung-soo about her bruised face. The show is good at depicting the licentious wealthy class and their incestuous relationships with each other, but I do wonder if they have been slightly too good at making me dislike these people. When the focus is on Bok-ja or Ah-jin, I’m invested. When it strays to her friends or their husbands (especially Jae-suk!) I just want to ask Ah-jin why she still willingly associates with these people. Even Ki-ok is oblivious as a friend.
It’s looking dicey for Bok-ja at the minute, because Ah-jin has found her being deliberately cruel to Joo-mi. Ah-jin has already given her more chances than she deserves, and I don’t know how she will talk her way out of this. I look forward to seeing her try though.
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