The Secret Life of My Secretary: Episodes 1-2
Better late than never! The Secret Life of My Secretary is proving to be too good to pass up, so recap it is! There are so many ways to describe this show: Cute, funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking; there’s even a smattering of action that sneaks its way in. With a cast of characters that grab your attention and a plot that keeps moving briskly, I can’t wait to see where this is going. No more waiting – let’s dive in!
(Note: This recap is just for episodes 1-2, so the end commentary does not cover anything past that. There will be a review on the rest of the series shortly.)
EPISODE 1-2 RECAP: What Happens When One is Patient for Three Moments?
Opening on a flashback, our heroine, JUNG GAL-HEE (Jin Ki-joo), narrates that her family always had a motto they stood by: “Three moments of patience can ward off disaster.” Everyone believed in it firmly, right up until her mom gets hit by a truck whilst exercising those three moments of patience.
On her death bed at the hospital, Gal-hee’s mom tries to tell her daughter to “ditch” the family motto, but the beeping of her heart rate monitor blocks out her words. She passes before delivering the message, leaving the rest of the family sobbing and Gal-hee desperately asking what her last words were.
Speed up to current time, Gal-hee is ring shopping with a borrowed fancy VIP credit card. Her boss, DO MIN-IK (Kim Young-kwang), is a director at T&T Mobile, a media company. While Gal-hee is out buying a present for her boss’ mother, Min-ik is peeking around some shrubbery at the office, gleefully eavesdropping on a group of executives as they discuss him.
As he listens to the higher-ups complain over his rapid advancement, he carefully observes the faces and mannerisms of the group. He picks up on minute details in their expressions and deduces their true thoughts behind the false flattery.
Sauntering over to the group, he jovially confronts one of the execs, grinning as he muses out loud that in spite of the compliments, the man is planning to vote to keep Min-ik’s uncle (CEO Shim) in the CEO position, rather than Min-ik.
Leaning in real close, Min-ik whispers that even if the exec doesn’t like him, he has his own people backing him. At that moment, his friend (and another director at the company) KI DAE-JOO (Gu Ja-sung), comes running around the corner looking for him. Min-ik points to Dae-joo as one of those people supporting him.
Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Min-ik tells the group to “carry on badmouthing” him, then he departs with Dae-joo. After he leaves, the execs grouse about how they can’t hide anything from Min-ik: “He will remember you if he sees your face once and will read your thoughts when he sees your expression.”
Turns out Dae-joo has been looking everywhere for Min-ik as he’s needed at the rehearsal for a big company broadcast that Min-ik is hosting. Everything goes smoothly until Min-ik jumps up on stage and the black of his suit blends with the black background, making him look like a floating head on the monitor.
Everyone panics because the media team has already gone home for the day, but Min-ik simply heaves a put-upon sigh and uses his phone to take a video of himself against the backdrop. A group of company secretaries watch all this and wonder why the director is so calm in the face of crisis. One of the women answers that he’s calm because it’s someone else’s job to panic.
Sure enough, a very freaked out Gal-hee is watching the video her boss sent her. Gal-hee leaps up and starts running frantically back to the company building.
While we watch Gal-hee sprint, the secretaries narrate how Gal-hee is little more than an errand runner for Min-ik, doing any and all tasks he asks of her. She gave up wearing heals so she can run to her boss whenever he calls, and carries a diaper bag full of emergency supplies for him. Gal-hee even went so far as to supply a urine sample in his place when asked. (Um, ew.)
Gal-hee arrives running to the office, but the secretaries confront her in the lobby. They gripe that her willingness to do any and everything has given the rest of them a bad name, turning secretaries into minions. It’s harsh, but Gal-hee doesn’t even bat an eye. She states plainly that she buried her pride long ago and since this boss pays her more than any other job, she’s willing to do anything to keep the work.
The secretaries get the last word however, when they remind her that Min-ik has gone through a new secretary each year and never renews their employment contract when the year is up. That shakes Ga-hee’s conviction a bit since her one-year term is coming to an end soon.
Gal-hee bursts into Min-ik’s office with a new outfit. As she dresses her boss, she gives a series of explanations for why this problem happened, but all the excuses are knocked down by a blasé Min-ik (Gal-hee: “I confirmed the background with the media group twice.” Min-ik: “You didn’t confirm a third time?”).
Suddenly Min-ik leans down in front of her so their faces are inches apart. Everything slows like they’re about to have a moment, but then he puckers his lips and Gal-hee whips out Chapstick and applies it for him. Pfft. Her subservience is complete when she offers her own head as a brace so he can balance and put his new shoes on.
The broadcast commences and Min-ik gives a flawless presentation. Gal-hee watches from the sidelines where she’s joined by Dae-joo. Noting her bright red cardigan which she always wears along with her dependable flats, he deduces that she uses the sweater because it’s something she can wear both indoors and outdoors while running around for Min-ik.
Gal-hee is shocked he figured it out, until he reveals that before Min-ik had a secretary, Dae-joo was the one assisting him. Commiserating together over his picky tendencies, Dae-joo warns Gal-hee not to devote too much of herself to the job. “Always restraining yourself, bowing your head and working hard doesn’t guarantee acknowledgement.”
At home, Gal-hee’s older brother, Jung Joong-hee, who’s eyesight is so poor he’s practically blind, runs over with an envelope, yelling that Gal-hee’s little sister’s college acceptance has arrived. Gal-hee leaps up, but it turns out to be just an envelope of take-out fliers that Joon-hee couldn’t see properly.
Glaring at her brother over the false alarm, Gal-hee swears that she’ll work hard to earn the money to send her sister to the same school that Min-ik attended, determined that she’ll be a success and won’t have to stand in the wings like Gal-hee.
Anxious about her employment contract, Gal-hee visits HR the next day to ask if Min-ik has made any moves to renew it. He hasn’t, but Gal-hee learns that of all the many secretaries Min-ik has had, there was one – his first secretary – that he kept for 3 years and even suggested hiring as a full employee.
Min-ik and Dae-joo meet on the rooftop and Min-ik hands over a USB, calling it a gift. In return, Dae-joo hands him a sign up for the company athletic competition. Min-ik just tuts that he would never compete in anything like that, especially for a mere first prize of a rice cooker.
Just then Min-ik uses his crazy vision skillz to see Gal-hee waaaay down in the crowd around the building. He starts picking at how she’s so clumsy getting stuck in the crowd instead of going around, but Dae-joo is more amazed he can spot her from so far away.
Min-ik boasts, “Even if I become deaf I feel like I could still hear her. Even if I go blind, I think I could still recognize her.” Dae-joo suggests that he consider renewing her contract since she knows him better than any other assistant he’s had, but Min-ik shuts that down immediately, reminding Dae-joo of the last secretary who knew him so well and what she did. Hmmmm, intrigue.
In her boss’ office, Gal-hee thinks about the HR rep telling her that her employment contract had recently been sent to Min-ik for renewal consideration, but hasn’t been approved yet. As luck would have it, Min-ik strolls in carrying the form Dae-joo gave him for the company athletic competition and Gal-hee – noting the official looking document – assumes that it’s her contract.
Seeing Min-ik start to ball up the paper, Gal-hee shouts out to ask if he just received that. Min-ik confirms it and throws the paper out, saying she should just rest instead. Of course, we know he’s talking about the athletic competition, but Gal-hee thinks he’s saying he won’t re-hire her so she can take a break.
Gal-hee immediately stomps a salute and swears that she never needs any rest, shouting to the shocked Min-ik, “I will run with you even to the point of risking my life.” When she promises that she’ll work until her armpits become a salt farm (again, ew), Min-ik caves. He agrees to consider it (the athletic competition), and Gal-hee is ecstatic because she believes he’s considering it (renewing her contract).
Heh, as Gal-hee drives Min-ik home that night, he keeps staring at her in the rearview, marveling at her devotion to winning a rice cooker. Gal-hee is feeling pretty good, thinking that her boss is considering hiring her, that is right up until she buzzes him into his apartment complex and opens the gate smack into his forehead.
It’s a pretty hard bang and Min-ik freaks when his vision of Gal-hee’s face goes blurry. Seeing that his head is bleeding, he immediately runs off in a panicked daze and grabs a taxi. Poor Gal-hee is left frazzled, confused, and cursing her bad timing.
Min-ik goes straight to a hospital and starts pestering Doctor GU SEOK-CHAN (Kim Byung-choon). Min-ik knows him from a surgery he had as a boy, and it’s clear they’ve maintained a close relationship since given the whining and pouting that Doctor Gu is putting up with while Min-ik chases after him.
Min-ik is worried sick since he had always been told to avoid any kinds of stress after his past operation (he sites this as the reason he never does any physical activity and avoids crowded places). In the end Doctor Gu quizzes him on mathematic times tables, gives Min-ik’s scalp a quick peek, then flicks him on the forehead for worrying over nothing.
Min-ik returns home to find a med kit care package and a sorry note from Gal-hee hanging on the gate. He scoffs that she didn’t need to do that but looks slightly appeased.
That night Min-ik sits with Gal-hee’s contract, considering her renewal. He starts to rip it up, but stops when he looks back at the care package she left. He remembers back to her hiring interview and thinks over all the effort she’s put in over the year. It’s enough to give him pause, but we don’t see his final decision.
The next morning Gal-hee is up and getting ready for the athletic competition. Her sister points out this it’s the anniversary of their mother’s death (a day when Korean families hold memorial rites together), but Gal-hee insists she has to go, chirping happily that the boss agreed to consider making her a full-time employee.
At the competition, the secretaries welcome a new arrival, LEE EUL-WANG (Jang So-yeon), greeting her as their sunbae. Attention is pulled though when they marvel at Gal-hee’s effort as she does push-ups on the side, claiming she has to get ready to compete with her boss.
The others scoff that Min-ik never comes to these kinds of things, but just as Gal-hee’s enthusiasm starts to droop, who should we see slow-mo walking over in a brightly colored tracksuit, but Director Do Min-ik. The sheer amount of jaw-dropping is oddly satisfying.
Dae-joo sees Min-ik sauntering over and is shocked as well. He asks why he’s attending when he never does, and Min-ik just sighs that it’s because of her, nodding at the smiling Gal-hee. (Aww!)
Min-ik heads over as the contestants are being called for the main event – a race where the boss’ piggyback their secretaries. Everyone watches when he presents his back to Gal-hee and tells her to hop on. When she stares frozen in shock, he actually backs up into her, grabs her arms, and pulls her up on his back.
The race begins and the bosses all run to a relay point where the secretaries must reach up and bite a chip off of a string. Min-ik give Gal-hee an extra boost up and she eagerly chomps the snack right off, then the two are running back.
Gal-hee is in heaven as they run down the finish line. They beat the rest across the finish line and win first place to enormous applause – even the other secretaries are clapping. Thrilled, Gal-hee gives the nonplussed Min-ik a hug before catching herself, then backs away with a cute “First place!”
Min-ik gives a half smile at that and says he wanted to give her this so they could end their work relationship on a good note. (Oh no.) He holds out his hand for a final good-bye shake and Gal-hee’s face falls completely.
The two relocate and Min-ik reveals that he will not renew her contract. Gal-hee is confused since he agreed to “consider it,” but Min-ik clarifies that he was talking about the competition they just ran. He starts to chuckle about the misunderstanding since her fervor makes more sense now, until Gal-hee asks incredulously if he’s laughing while firing her.
Min-ik points out that he always lets his secretaries go after one year, but Gal-hee admits she was hoping for more when she learned that he kept a previous one for three years. At the mention of the mysterious secretary, Min-ik’s voice hardens and says she shouldn’t have had any expectations since her contract was always only for a year.
Half yelling, half crying, Gal-hee rants about the sacrifices she made for him and how she gave up living her own life just to become an accessory to him. Sobbing that even her personal diary is filled with his schedule, she demands to know why, after all of that, she isn’t even allowed to any expectations of being hired in return?
To his credit, Min-ik looks moved as he listens to everything she went through for him. However, in a cruel irony, the moment is broken by the loudspeaker announcing Gal-hee as the winner of the rice cooker. Min-ik offers a sad congrats and gently pats Gal-hee’s shoulder, then walks away, leaving her crying amongst the cherry blossoms.
Afterwards, Gal-hee trudges home with her first-prize rice cooker. She gets home to see her brother and sister passed out in front of their mother’s memorial, the same memorial she skipped because she thought her boss would hire her. Seeing her mother’s picture and the family motto above it, Gal-hee breaks down completely. (*Sniff*)
The next morning finds the now jobless Gal-hee trying to sleep in, but unable to when the cursed rice cooker keeps beeping at her. Not wanting to tell her siblings that she was fired, Gal-hee fibs that her Min-ik gave her the day off.
At the office, Dae-joo opens the USB Min-ik gave him and grins to see some adorable dog videos (so cute!). Additionally, Min-ik saved a surprise folder inside that shows advertising trend predictions for the year.
Secretary Wang enters with coffee and picks up on Dae-joo’s praise for Min-ik. She comments that his business acumen is why Team 1 is doing so much better than Team 2, only belatedly remembering that Dae-joo is the director for Team 2. Oops.
Dae-joo brushes it off with a smile, agreeing the Min-ik is the more talented. Interestingly he invites Secretary Wang to drop the honorifics (something friends or family would do) and addresses her as Noona, which could mean either they have a friendly relationship, or she is his older sister. Both their smiles fall though when Dae-joo receives a call from CEO Shim.
Dae-joo end up being called out for a dinner with the CEO, only to realize that it’s really a get-together of the head execs, the same ones that Min-ik slighted earlier that day. Looking incredibly uncomfortable but resigned, Dae-joo joins them as they continue to discuss the upcoming meeting which will vote for the CEO position.
The execs are quick to put their support behind reappointing CEO Shim over Min-ik, but he jovially brushes off their compliments and focuses instead on Dae-joo, calling him a rising star in the company. Placing a piece of meat from the head of the fish entre on Dae-joo’s plate, CEO Shim tells him that once you’ve tasted the head, you’ll never go back to the tail meat. Well hello, symbolism.
Min-ik is working late at the office and needs some of the data on the USB he gave Dae-joo earlier. He heads over to Dae-joo’s office but pauses to see Gal-hee’s journal on her unoccupied desk. Remembering her earlier words about her diary being filled with his schedule, he flips through it and sure enough, it’s just pages of notes and reminders about him.
Looking a bit guilty, he continues past, not seeing one of the secretaries in the hallway behind him. Thinking that he’s leaving work for the night, Gal-hee’s old co-worker calls her to tell her that it’s clear for her to come get her stuff.
Gal-hee sneaks in and starts packing up her belongings, but she’s startled when Min-ik wanders back after collecting the USB. She drops down behind her desk and overhears Min-ik take a call from Dae-joo and agree to meet “there.” Min-ik heads out, twirling the USB on his finger and passing Secretary Wang in the hallway.
After narrowly avoiding a confrontation with her ex-boss, Gal-hee packs up her stuff and heads down to the breakroom where she sits and stares at the saying on the wall, which just so happens to be the same as her family’s motto.
Aww, all the other secretaries show up – even the snarky one – and they hold a farewell party for Gal-hee. In the meantime, Min-ik makes his way over to “there,” which turns out to be a boat. Except while Min-ik waits, Dae-joo instructs his driver to go somewhere else.
Hah! All the secretaries get well and truly plastered and start cursing Min-ik’s poor treatment of their (now) beloved Gal-hee. In solidarity, they decide to go kill the evil Director Do, but Gal-hee calls off the hounds. Pointing to the motto, she says that they have to be patient.
Right at that second, one of the characters falls off the wall and it changes the motto to read “Three moments of patience brings great disaster.” Like a lightbulb going off, Gal-hee finally understands what her mother had tried to tell her on her deathbed and leaps up into action. Downing a bottle of soju, Gal-hee stumbles over to grab a bat and yells, “Let’s go kill that jerk!”
Lion King music kicks in and all the secretaries stand, roaring like the lionesses of Pride Rock while Gal-hee swings her mighty bat-of-justice. They each grab their weapon of choice (a.k.a whatever is on hand), then they’re off, slow-mo walking down the hall to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” anthem.
Min-ik, the unknowing target of the collective secretarial fury, is still at the boat waiting for Dae-joo to arrive. But instead of Dae-joo, a man all in black with a facemask boards the docked boat.
There’s an awkward moment where Min-ik tries to tell the suspicious character that he’s got the wrong vessel, but suddenly the man lunges at him, making a grab for the USB that Min-ik just put in his jacket pocket. The two men grapple and it’s obvious that neither of them are fighters in any way. Masked Man even looks a bit scared of the whole confrontation.
Min-ik manages to break away and runs off the boat. He trips on the dock and his phone goes sliding into the water (of course). With Masked Man right on his heels, Min-ik pops up and keeps running.
The two men continue their chase, ending up on the second level of an outdoor building overlooking the marina. It’s a standstill when Min-ik realizes he’s at a dead-end.
Away from the fight (mugging?), the ferocious secretaries have lost some of their fervor when confronted with the cold night air. Sobering up, they start to wonder if maybe they should just go home instead.
Gal-hee refuses, denouncing them all as traitors. Determined to fight for her own justice and armed with a pair of pig’s feet nunchucks, she strikes out on her own, while the others go spilt a cab. Pfft.
On the patio, the attacker pulls out a knife and Min-ik askes in disbelief if he’s really going to stab him. Masked Man lunges and manages to pin Min-ik against the railing, both men fighting for possession of the weapon.
As luck would have it, Min-ik spies Gal-hee as she stomps her way towards his boat and calls out to her. Heh, she instinctively bows and yells “Yes, director!” when she hears his voice. She thinks it’s just a figment, but Min-ik’s repeated calls get her attention and she squints upwards.
Min-ik is pulled back from the railing and ends up on the ground, his assailant landing on top with the knife between them. Min-ik tries to push the knife away, but it inches closer and closer to his chest…until Gal-hee looms up behind the man and whacks him over the head with her mighty pig’s feet.
Masked Man rolls off, unconscious, while Gal-hee gapes at what she did. Min-ik kicks the assailant’s knife away and removes the man’s mask, commenting that he recognizes his face from somewhere.
Unfortunately, Gal-hee’s righteous blow wasn’t all the strong and Masked Man comes round quickly. He grabs the discarded knife and when Min-ik leaps in to stop him, he pushes back, slashing the director in the abdomen and shoving him towards the railing.
Injured and unable to stop the momentum, Min-ik tips up over the railing (it’s drama magic, just go with it) and falls to the pier below. As he plummets, he looks back up at the Masked Man whose face appears to blur for a moment.
(Phew! OK, obviously he lives so keep breathing.) The next day Min-ik wakes up in the hospital to a sharp pain in his noggin. Doctor Gu is right by his side, but Min-ik just asks him to call Doctor Gu, not recognizing the man in front of him. The camera suddenly switches so we’re looking at Doctor Gu through Min-ik’s eyes. While the hair and outfit are the same, it’s clearly a different person’s face.
Min-ik wonders at the shocked silence, until he sees Doctor Gu’s nametag. He tries to focus on the doctor, but each time he blinks his face morphs into a different person. Still confused, Min-ik thinks someone is trying to play a trick on him, until Doctor Gu starts asking him mathematic times tables, just like he did before.
In the meantime, Gal-hee is being questioned at the hospital by detectives who think she was the one to attack Min-ik. Gal-hee is so dumbfounded that she can only laugh hysterically and seethe at her ill fate.
Back in his room, Min-ik is also laughing insanely, thinking that this must be a bad dream and tries to go back to sleep. Except the sharp pain in his head convinces him it’s reality and he starts to panic.
Freaking out, Min-ik makes a run for it, but gets scared each time he runs into someone and sees their face change into a different person. Eventually he ends up in a shaking, frightened ball, huddled underneath a table.
As Min-ik hyperventilates, something breaks through his panic: The sound of Gal-hee’s dependable shoes stomping their way in his direction. He looks up to see her come into focus, and remarkably her face doesn’t alter as the others had. She stomps in his direction and he remembers telling Dae-joo that even if he’s deaf and blind, he’ll still be able to recognize her.
Looking like someone who just found their saving grace, Min-ik pops up and calls out her name. Problem is, Gal-hee is still fuming that not only has this jerk fired her after a year of servitude, she’s now being considered a suspect for his assault.
Gal-hee yells, “I don’t care what happens this time, there’s no way I’m saving you again!” But just as she starts marching forwards, Min-ik steps into the charge and grips her in a hug. Gal-hee freezes in shock when he rests his head right on her upper chest, just like a terrified child.
As Gal-hee stands dead still, her hand still lifted to attack him, Min-ik stutters out a fearful, “Secretary Jung, please save me.”
Iinterestingly I went from really disliking Min-ik in the beginning, to having my heart break for him at the end. I’m sure we weren’t supposed to love him in the first place given what he put Gal-hee through, but I was on the verge of not enjoying the show because the character annoyed me so much. I’m really impressed with Kim Young-kwang’s portrayal of Min-ik, especially at the end when he was flinching away from every person he saw. The way he can flip from the blasé attitude to making me have just all the feels (like when Gal-hee was crying because he was firing her, I could feel the guilt coming off him) is truly impressive.
On top of that, I’m equally surprised and impressed by Jin Ki-joo. The only thing I’ve seen her in before was Come Here and Hug Me, and while that had some intense scenes, I didn’t realize she had the range of acting to do comedy as well. The spunk she showed when the secretaries confronted her made me love Gal-hee’s character instantly. She may be acting like a minion, but she is in no way cowed. Now that Min-ik is injured and clearly needs her, I’m looking forward to them butting heads over her returning to work for him. Something tells me she won’t be nearly as easy to re-hire as she was to fire.
What’s most interesting about this show is that the premise seems different from what I had originally anticipated. My understanding had been that Min-ik couldn’t recognize anyone’s face and ends up confusing Gal-hee with a woman he likes romantically. It seems however that Gal-hee is the exception and he actually can see her face, so I’m not sure how this romantic switcheroo is going to happen.
Regardless, I like this version better and it makes more sense with the characters: The episode kept emphasizing that Gal-hee was the one person who knew Min-ik best. It seems that whether he wanted to fire her or not, Gal-hee became a constant for him during their one year together. Now he’s going to have to do some serious groveling if Min-ik wants his Secretary Jung back. (Bwahaha.)