Woman of Dignity: Episode 8
Ah-jin fiercely tries to hold it together this hour, but despite her best efforts, some battles prove more difficult than anticipated. Luckily, she has people who care for her to help her through. On the other hand, Bok-ja is exercising her newfound control over the household, and while she’s not afraid to make enemies to achieve her goals, maybe she should be.
Episode 8: “The glass ceiling and the glass floor”
Our wealthy wives’ club arrives at an event that Ah-jin is organizing. The scene cuts to an artist standing in front of a white wall, and as he begins to sketch on the giant canvas, Bok-ja narrates:
“There’s a transparent glass ceiling between the high class and the low class. You can see through it, so it looks like anyone can reach it. But the reality is that the low class are blocked by that glass ceiling, and no one can break through. The high class believes that it cannot go down to the low class either. It’s because of that glass floor they’re standing on. The glass floor stops them from falling off, though they can see through it.”
The artist finishes with a flourish, and as he steps aside to present his work, we can now see that he has an audience. The women of Ah-jin’s event give him a round of applause, but then the canvas suddenly lights up with a projection of a city skyline over, and perfectly aligned with, the artist’s sketch, causing them to gasp and cheer with delight.
“But… there’s something they’re forgetting,” Bok-ja’s narration continues. “The glass floor is transparent. And it can also break.”
At the Ahn Estate, the new maid and Bok-ja’s friend, Bang-soon, breaks a dish. Mrs. Cho is horrified, but Bok-ja arrives and quickly pulls Bang-soon away. In the privacy of Bok-ja’s old room, Bang-soon asks what’s the matter, accidentally calling Bok-ja by her old name in the process.
Bok-ja exasperatedly warns her not to use it again, reiterating that she’s no longer Park Cho-hee, but the wife of the chairman of Daesung Pulp. Calling Bang-soon “unni,” Bok-ja reminds her to be more careful in front of others, and Bang-soon readily agrees before she promises to do as Bok-ja wishes and be her eyes and ears in the house. At this, Bok-ja’s smile fades back into that familiar calculating expression.
Things are getting lively at Ah-jin’s event as Director Seo struts around the room like a model, receiving cheers and applause from the other ladies. She then begins to remove articles of her outfit, presenting each to the room before placing them on the auction tables. She even offers up her bra, ha.
Later, the other women mill about the gallery perusing the auction items. Director Seo sidles up to Ah-jin and asks why a certain someone isn’t there yet and, speak of the devil, in walks Sung-hee. She apologizes to Director Seo for her tardiness as Ah-jin watches her with a hardened expression.
In his office, Jae-suk sulks as he stares at one of the tissue boxes bearing Sung-hee’s art. Loyal Employee PARK walks in and notices his sour expression as Jae-suk makes some ambiguous comments about earth being unable to live with just the sun (meaning Ah-jin), because the earth needs the moon (Sung-hee) too, earning a confused look from his employee. Jae-suk snarks that Employee Park doesn’t understand because he’s not a romantic, and Park exasperatedly replies, “You must be so happy since you’re too much of a romantic.” Hehe.
Back at the event, Ki-ok happens to see Ah-jin exchanging hostile looks with Sung-hee from across the room. She’s confused, at least until she remembers seeing Sung-hee with Jae-suk at the restaurant. The realization seems to hit her, but before she can think too much on it, Joo-kyung (the woman that runs the after-school academy) approaches her and informs her about Kyung-hee’s husband’s attack.
We cut to Kyung-hee telling Hyo-joo in a bored tone that her husband was “beaten just enough not to die.” Hyo-joo remarks that she sounds upset that he didn’t, and they drink to their loveless marriages.
Hyo-joo asks why Kyung-hee doesn’t just get a divorce, and the latter shrugs that she wouldn’t be able to support herself before throwing the question back. Hyo-joo reasons that she has kids. She suggests that Kyung-hee at least should date and feigns surprise when Kyung-hee easily admits that she already is. “You think you’re the only one with a lover?” Kyung-hee asks haughtily.
Talk of Kyung-hee’s husband continues with the ajummas at Pungsookjeong, the food delivery service for the super rich. His injuries were severe, and they speculate that maybe Ki-ok’s husband was responsible since he’s dating Kyung-hee, and he must know that her husband beats her. As they wonder how Kyung-hee lives like that, one ajumma shares that Kyung-hee is incapable of bearing children and speculates that she must love the son from her husband’s first marriage as her own.
The conversation turns to Ki-ok and how she doesn’t know about her husband’s infidelity when everyone else does, though they guess that Ki-ok doesn’t know because her family doesn’t buy from Pungsookjeong, and therefore, she’s not privy to the town gossip mill. Mention of the new maid at the Ahn Estate shifts their focus to “the new wife,” and all the while, Ah-jin’s housekeeper sits quietly and uncomfortably.
Bok-ja narrates: “Gossip at Pungsookjeong is faster and more accurate than any media. But thanks to someone who knows how to watch her mouth, no one got to know the fact that Jae-suk’s cheating on his wife. And the secret that the members of Pungsookjeong never caught onto… still remains.”
The camera pans back to the mysterious, padlocked refrigerator in Pungsookjeong, which one woman (the owner?) unlocks. She removes three bottles of pink liquid and carries them into the kitchen, where she adds some to each of the tubs being used to mix kimchi.
Chairman Ahn is feeding his birds when his daughter storms up to him, demanding to know if he’s going to do whatever “that woman” says. He doesn’t appreciate her word choice, but she just whines that he’s going to spoil Bok-ja and turn her into a brat. The chairman doesn’t disagree, since that’s exactly what happened to Jae-hee. Ha.
Jae-hee says that she doesn’t like the new maid, either, and Chairman Ahn says she shouldn’t care when she’ll be leaving soon. She argues that she’s his daughter and adds that he shouldn’t allow Bok-ja any financial control. She immediately proposes he give her money in exchange for her noninterference, and the chairman exasperatedly barks at her to get lost.
Inside, Jae-hee fumes, and the thoroughly incompetent Bang-soon greets her casually, calling her “unni.” Appalled, Jae-hee snaps that she should speak to her respectfully and call her “agasshi” (young lady). Bang-soon snorts that it doesn’t suit her, but quiets when Jae-hee threatens to kick her out.
Ah-jin meets Joo-mi in a park and tells her about her meeting with the personal trainer. Joo-mi is shocked that he claimed that she paid him to hurt Bok-ja, but when she offers to call the cops, she picks up on Ah-jin’s wary gaze and guesses that she must be suspicious of her. “You do have a motive,” Ah-jin points out. But Joo-mi just says that if she had asked someone to hurt Bok-ja, she would’ve just had them kill her.
Ah-jin is slightly alarmed, but Joo-mi just repeats that they should call the cops. However, Ah-jin argues that if the trainer sticks to his story, Joo-mi will be in trouble too—and since he claims that they dealt in cash, Joo-mi won’t be able to prove otherwise.
This only raises Joo-mi’s ire at being falsely accused. She insists that her gut is telling her that Bok-ja did it, but since they have no way to prove it, Ah-jin’s switches subjects to say that they should bring Joo-mi’s husband home first. Joo-mi isn’t thrilled about the idea, but doesn’t argue on the condition that he stays out of her room.
Cut to: Jae-gu cleaning a rifle he has propped against his hotel bed, surrounded by bowls of instant ramyun and bottles of beer. His phone rings just then, and he smiles as he tells Ah-jin that of course he wants to go home.
In his office, Ki-ho sits with a client who complains that his wife eats too much. He says that he’s no longer attracted to her, and Ki-ho pointedly asks if he’s ever considered the reason behind his wife’s bingeing, adding that she’s not just an object for sex. The skeevy client angrily asks if Ki-ho would sleep with someone who’s like an elephant, and Ki-ho, to his credit, just exhales exasperatedly.
The irate client passes Ah-jin as he leaves the office, peeved that Ki-ho had the audacity to turn down his divorce case and told him to love his wife instead. Ki-ho’s office assistant just sighs that Ki-ho has no concerns about making money, which makes Ah-jin smile.
In Ki-ho’s office, Ah-jin explains that she’s here to pick up Chairman Ahn’s notarized prenup, and though Ki-ho offers her tea, she knows he doesn’t have the time for it since she already checked his schedule. He looks a bit disappointed but notes that she seems to be in a better mood today.
In response, Ah-jin shows him a book of poetry she picked up from the auction event she held earlier, which was donated by her teacher friend but went unsold. He seems to recognize it, but she doesn’t notice as she muses, “It felt like the last standing flower in a battlefield. I was drawn to it like destiny.”
Ki-ho asks if she’s giving it to him, and Ah-jin says it’s an appreciation gift for all that he’s done. Ki-ho marvels at the book and asks why she’s giving him something so valuable, and Ah-jin simply replies that it’s because he’s her partner.
She stands to leave, but Ki-ho stops her to say, “When the clouds disappear and the sun starts to shine again… that sun becomes you.” Ah-jin is taken aback, but Ki-ho breaks the moment by telling her that the passage is from the book she gave him.
Dressed to the nines, Bok-ja struts into a classy hotel and gives the receptionist Ah-jin’s name. The receptionist smiles and tells her she’s all set before suddenly asking if Bok-ja’s frequented this hotel in the past, since she looks familiar.
Startled, Bok-ja puts her sunglasses back on and firmly tells the receptionist that she’s never been here before. As Bok-ja walks away, the receptionist can’t help but wonder where she’s seen her before.
And when Bok-ja turns down a hallway, a brief flashback reveals that she’d been a housekeeper in this hotel. In the past, she’d watched longingly as wealthy women had sashayed down that hall. Now, she squares her shoulders and does the same.
While making jewelry in the craft room with Ah-jin, Jin-hee makes small talk about Ji-hoo before tentatively asking about Jae-suk. Ah-jin somberly admits that it’s hard to even look at him, adding that she deals with it by thinking of their daughter and the good things he’s done for her. Jin-hee asks if he’s at work now, and though Ah-jin replies that he “probably” is, she looks lost in thought.
As it turns out, Jae-suk is not at work, but instead sitting in his car outside Sung-hee’s apartment. It’s unclear how long he’s there, but he eventually starts sobbing pathetically, while upstairs, Sung-hee looks at her paintings and does the same.
Back at the Ahn Estate, Jae-hee asks Joo-mi if she really was responsible for the tent fiasco, which Joo-mi indignantly denies. Jae-hee doesn’t seem to believe her, but she also doesn’t seem to care. She asks if Jae-gu is really coming home, and when Ah-jin affirms that he is, Jae-hee says that they all need to work together.
In the hall, Bok-ja and Bang-soon watch the exchange with irritation, with Bok-ja directing Bang-soon to dig up dirt on the youngest daughter, Jae-hee. They’re startled by the chairman’s appearance behind them, but Bok-ja swiftly switches into doting wife mode and ushers him away.
Mrs. Cho complains about Bang-soon to Jin-hee and Ah-jin’s housekeeper. Ah-jin’s housekeeper mutters that her boss has enough to worry about, which piques Mrs. Cho’s interest. She leans in eagerly, but the other two know better and clam up before they can spill too much.
At home, Bok-ja gives the chairman a massage and coyly suggests that they get a karaoke machine and maybe install a home theater. The chairman laughs and asks if that’s what she wants, but Bok-ja insists that it’s not for her, it’s for his health. She performs a little song and dance number for him full of aegyo, causing Jae-hee and Joo-mi to share an irritated look outside the room.
Jae-suk comes home to find Ah-jin waiting for him. Seated awkwardly across from each other, Ah-jin says that she’s willing to be miserable for their daughter’s sake. ae-suk can barely look at her and dejectedly whispers his gratitude, but Ah-jin isn’t finished. Her tone turns biting as she continues that in exchange, he’ll come and go by her watch, and his phone will be tracked.
Jae-suk sarcastically asks if she’s a government agent, but Ah-jin is no longer in the mood for his jokes and informs him that he’s now to sleep in the guest room as well. He mutters that she should throw him out instead, and Ah-jin does her best not to react, simply stating that the room has already been cleared before standing and leaving Jae-suk alone and looking pathetic.
A man walks up the stairs at the Ahn Estate and enters Bang-soon’s room, flopping down on the bed. Bang-soon jumps up in surprise, and the man turns out to be an equally surprised Jae-gu, who claps his hand over her mouth to muffle her alarmed screams.
In their home, Ki-ok texts her husband in order to surreptitiously watch him unlock his phone to read it, revealing his passcode to her.
Meanwhile, a detective visits Kyung-hee’s husband in his hospital room and says that his wife claims that the same person who assaulted him also assaulted her. That Kyung-hee said this (instead of implicating him) takes her husband by surprise, and he scoffs.
Chairman Ahn expresses his intention to turn Jae-hee’s room into an entertainment center, but Jae-hee brazenly declares that she’s going to live in the house. While they’re bickering, Joo-mi spots Bang-soon leaving with her husband’s meal. She tells her to leave it, but Bok-ja nods Bang-soon on, which just incites Jae-hee further. Bok-ja implores Jae-hee to stop upsetting the chairman.
After Bang-soon tries and fails to deliver Jae-gu his meal, she leaves his room looking upset, which doesn’t escape Joo-mi’s notice. But Joo-mi has bigger fish to fry, as she asks Jae-hee to trade rooms with Jae-gu, despite the fact that the chairman plans to kick Jae-hee out of the house.
Meanwhile, Bok-ja excitedly informs the chairman that his health is improving. He thanks her, and she asks how long he’s going to call her “Ms. Park.” Embarrassed, the chairman calls her a familiar term for “wife,” and in return, Bok-ja starts calling him “husband.”
Bok-ja proudly sweeps into the linen closet with Mrs. Cho and Bang-soon in tow. She selects bed linens the same way she’d seen Ah-jin do when she first arrived. In the china room, she points out a set to be taken away, but Mrs. Cho interjects to say that the set belonged to the chairman’s previous wife, much to Bok-ja’s annoyance.
However, Bok-ja grins when Bang-soon pipes up for Mrs. Cho to do as she’s told without talking back, and as a reward, Bok-ja tells Mrs. Cho that Bang-soon will be joining her on her Pungsookjeong trips.
The two housekeepers make the trip, and Bang-soon looks around curiously, eyeing the padlocked fridge in particular. In a quick montage, we see the special kimchi being wrapped up and painstakingly delivered to none other than Director Seo’s husband, who eats it so sloppily that Director Seo has to keep wiping his mouth with tissues from Jae-suk’s company (which, of course, bear Sung-hee’s artwork).
In his office, Jae-suk once again stares sadly at a tissue box. He reads through old text messages with Sung-hee and starts sobbing. His employee arrives just in time to hear him wailing her name, and rather than going in, he plops outside the door to wait.
Ah-jin hands Bok-ja a list of important family dates to observe, entrusting those duties to her now. She does request that Bok-ja at least be kind to Woon-kyu, if not apologize for throwing him out in the rain. She says he’s a sensitive boy with complicated feelings that he keeps to himself. Bok-ja agrees, adding that Ah-jin’s “different from the others,” and the small smile on her face seems genuine.
Bok-ja helps the chairman walk around the living room and asks to borrow his car to go grocery shopping when he says he’s not going to physical therapy. The chairman suggests she buy a car for herself, and her eyes sparkle as she asks if he really means it. Jae-hee sees this exchange from the doorway and glowers.
Meanwhile, Hyo-joo’s boyfriend tells her that one of his friends is dating one of hers, but we don’t get to hear who.
Ki-ok sits impatiently in the waiting room of her husband’s practice, and her presence puts the receptionist on edge. When he goes into surgery, Ki-ok slips into his office and searches through his phone. The call log reveals nothing suspicious, but as she flips through his text messages, she finds the one from the receptionist from that day she came to find him, warning him that his wife was there and asking if he was at the hotel.
Enraged, Ki-ok marches right up to the receptionist and slaps her across the face. She demands to know if she’s the one cheating with her husband and moves to slap her again when the horrified receptionist fails to respond. Luckily, another employee speaks up to say that Ki-ok has the wrong person.
At a fish market, Bok-ja snatches a writhing eel from a basin. Holding it up with conviction, she announces that she’s going to have the chairman’s baby (eels are considered good for a man’s virility) as Bang-soon’s eyes threaten to pop out of her head.
At home, Bok-ja feeds the cooked eel to the chairman while Jae-hee looks on with disgust. And in another room, Bang-soon fishes for information from the chatty Mrs. Cho, who now seeks to kiss up to the real woman in charge: Bok-ja.
Back at the hospital, Ki-ok apologizes for her rash behavior and asks the receptionist about the other woman. The receptionist says that she doesn’t know anything, lying that her boss goes to sleep at the hotel between surgeries. She huffs that she can’t work here after being subjected to such treatment and tries to leave, but Ki-ok implores her to tell her if she knows anything.
The receptionist firmly denies it but adds that even if she did know something, she wouldn’t get involved. Ki-ok can’t understand why she won’t help as a fellow woman, but the other employee interrupts to tell them that Sung-soo finished his surgery, allowing the receptionist to escape.
While taking a break in the courtyard, Bok-ja suggests that she take over the family affairs from Ah-jin, but the chairman thinks it’ll just be a headache. Bok-ja assures him money has nothing to do with it, but he thinks that’s all the more reason to leave it to Ah-jin, since she’s been doing so well for so long. Bok-ja is forced to drop the subject but walks away with a sullen expression, leaving the chairman conflicted.
At home, Ah-jin has a nice bonding moment with Ji-hoo as they play beauty salon with phone apps. Ah-jin receives a text from Ki-ho quoting another line from the book of poetry she gave him: “‘Everything was a miracle leading up to our encounter. But I hadn’t realized it.’ Isn’t this a great and memorable line?”
She quickly calls Joo-kyung to ask if she can get another copy, but Joo-kyung just laughs when she hears that Ah-jin had given her copy to Ki-ho, since he’s the author (operating under a penname). Hah!
Ah-jin then calls Ki-ho, and they meet briefly in a park. She asks indignantly why he didn’t tell her, and he replies that it wouldn’t have been as cool, ha. He gives her a signed copy of his book (noting lamely that there were only one hundred copies made, and he owns most of them) before asking if she’s eaten. She affirms she has and asks him the same. He answers, “If you haven’t, I haven’t. If you have, then I have too. That’s how dinner is.”
Sung-soo apologizes to his receptionist and suggests that she take a vacation, giving her money to do so/keep quiet. Afterward, he texts Kyung-hee that they shouldn’t meet for a while, since his wife is suspicious. She receives it as she walks through the hospital and rolls her eyes.
Reaching her husband’s bedside, Bong-shik’s first question is if she’s the one responsible for his injuries. Kyung-hee feigns ignorance, but he’s not fooled and pointedly says that he’ll catch whoever did it and return the favor. She flippantly agrees that victims of assault can’t sit still, but flinches when he sits up threateningly. He tells her to behave if she doesn’t want to be kicked out, and she can only tremble silently.
Jae-gu comes home drunk and finds the chairman sitting in the living room. He tells him that “that woman” had it all planned out. His voice grows louder, waking everyone in the house, as he talks about the injustice he’s faced, denying that he schemed to take over the company and ran over his father’s secretary.
He cries that he was framed and asks to know why his father believes a board of strangers over his own son. The chairman attempts to get up but falters, gripping his neck, which is when Bok-ja rushes out from her position at the door to guide him back to his room.
Bok-ja returns to the living room a moment later, and both she and Jae-gu stare each other down. She warns him to behave if he doesn’t want to see his wife and son kicked out, reiterating that she is his father’s wife now and doesn’t like repeating herself. Jae-gu attempts to go after her when she leaves, but Joo-mi stops him.
In their room, the chairman grumbles that Jae-gu is more like an enemy than a son, and Bok-ja slyly suggests that he should have children that aren’t like enemies. She turns away and laments that she has no power and that his children look down on her, but the chairman only apologizes.
Not getting the response she wanted, Bok-ja tells the chairman to go ahead and sleep before leaving the room.
Joo-mi goes up to Jae-gu’s room and hears a woman laughing inside. She flings the door open, but it’s only his sister, Jae-hee. Jae-hee wonders if they’ve made up, but Joo-mi denies it and excuses herself.
Alone again, Jae-hee asks what Jae-gu plans to do. She rattles off the stock allocation of the company, but he already forfeited his shares. He says he would rather have cash, and Jae-hee says that this is why their father doesn’t like them.
In the doghouse (aka the guest room) Jae-suk lies in the fetal position when he receives a text from Sung-hee asking to talk on the phone. He hesitates briefly before calling her, and Sung-hee asks if this is how it ends—aren’t they still in love? She cries that their love hasn’t ended and that she thinks about him all the time.
Cut to: Jae-suk, Sung-hee, and Ji-hoo happily piling into Jae-suk’s car and driving away as Ah-jin runs after them. Luckily, it’s just a dream, and Ah-jin jerks awake before drifting back off again.
A few hours later, Bok-ja calls to ask her to come over with Jae-suk, so she sleepily wanders down to his room. She knocks gently, but there’s no response. Opening the door, she finds the room empty, and her foreboding nightmare sends her racing to the garage just as Jae-suk pulls out.
She screams after him to stop, chasing the car down the drive until she trips. She screams again, but the car never so much as slows as it disappears around the bend.
My heart just breaks for Ah-jin. I was so proud of her for addressing Jae-suk’s cheating head-on, which is so refreshing, but the aftermath is just as painful. Unfortunately, her badass approach didn’t really solve the problem, but just temporarily squashed it. And though I can totally understand her decision to just keep a closer eye on Jae-suk, I also can understand why it didn’t work. She punished him, and he deserved it, but I suspect that one of the big reasons Jae-suk cheated was because it was an escape from his wife’s more precise nature.
Ah-jin is a perfectionist, and that can sometimes feel stifling. I’m by no means defending Jae-suk’s behavior, but I can see how it happened. He is far from perfect, and Ah-jin has no qualms with pointing that out. She’s smarter and more capable than him, and even his father dotes on her more than him, so there might be a slight inferiority complex at play here as well. So, compared to his intimidating “perfect” wife, I’m sure he found Sung-hee to be a nice relief. She fawns over him and puffs up his ego where Ah-jin tends to tear it down, whether or not she intends to.
I’m really hoping that the ending was a misunderstanding (is it too much of a stretch to hope Jae-suk is just heading out for some donuts?) because I just don’t know how much more Ah-jin can handle. It was taking everything she had just to hold it together as it was.
The upside is that she had some great moments this episode with her daughter, Jin-hee, and Ki-ho. I’m glad they’re with her, because things are sure to get rockier from here on out. And can I just say that Ki-ho is probably my favorite thing about this drama? He’s so quirky that every time he shows up, I usually end up smiling at the odd things he says.
Bok-ja remains a mystery. Through a flashback, we saw that she did, in fact, have a daughter, but we’ve learned little else. Her motives are unclear, and what about her endgame? If being merely rich was her goal, then she’s already succeeded, so why is she still fighting so fiercely for control over the Ahn household? Regardless, she’s barely begun, and although Ah-jin has been playing along, we know she has to have something up her sleeve.
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