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Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 2

We are given a few more details in this episode as the Revenge Merry-Go-Round takes off! A little more insight into Se-kyung’s motivations, and a little more insight into the world we’re plunging into. It’s a strange feeling to be watching a drama that’s so aware the shallow-ness of Cheongdam-dong and so serious about it. Strange, but not a bad feeling.

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“Shower” – by Every Single Day for Alice in Cheongdam-dong OST  [download]

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After the initial shock of seeing Se-kyung in the company, Yoon-joo greets her like an old friend. So fake. So now of course they have to have a little chit-chat. Yoon-joo is embarrassed that she never realized Se-kyung was her assistant, having thought the name belonged to someone else. She’ll smooth things over with the jewelry brand Eclaire over the warranty issue then.

Se-kyung admits that it’s all her fault, so she will be quitting anyway. Yoon-joo knows that In-hwa can be a difficult boss because her standards are so high, but she also has a lot of connections in the fashion industry. If Se-kyung were to quit over this matter, word will spread quickly.

Yoon-joo may be giving her advice, but her ulterior motive is most likely that she doesn’t want Se-kyung to leave when she hasn’t had her fill of fun just yet.

Se-kyung heads to In-hwa’s office, who’s already heard that the warranty issue will be resolved on its own. She notices Se-kyung’s resignation letter and comments that most girls before her have done the same thing: Once told that they’ll never make it in the fashion industry, they hang their heads and resign. “If you don’t have ‘the eye,'” In-hwa says, “shouldn’t you at least have a spine?” So true. I am starting to like In-hwa.

In-hwa leaves Se-kyung with some food for thought, and spots Yoon-joo in the office. She casually wonders over the state of preparation for the Artemis dinner, and Yoon-joo assures her that there is nothing to worry about. “I don’t want to have to worry,” In-hwa replies. Zing! And I really like In-hwa.

Se-kyung meets up with Ah-jung at a cafe and spills about her morning’s events. Ah-jung is flabbergasted that a cheater like Yoon-joo managed to become the wife of GN Fashion’s president. She wonders if the president is also the man Yoon-joo dated in France; a couple years ago, Ah-jung had dug around for information on fellow classmates and stumbled upon the juicy tidbit that Yoon-joo had lived with a man abroad.

Ah-jung offers to find out more salacious gossip, but that’s not enough to cheer up Se-kyung. Se-kyung’s pride is wounded, but she has to buck up and keep working. She can’t be unemployed forever.

After her coffee break, Se-kyung receives a text from Yoon-joo to meet her at a gallery, as she will be assisting Yoon-joo with preparing for the dinner. Se-kyung addresses Yoon-joo formally, as she finds it more comfortable to greet her superior as one rather than as a friend. It’s also her only way of coping with her current situation. Yoon-joo is highly amused by this; her revenge of making Se-kyung feel pitiful is on full-force.

Se-kyung helps pick out some more luxury items for Yoon-joo and arrives at the apartment to find it bustling with movers. Furniture is being moved around and paintings are being replaced. Se-kyung finds all these preparations quite excessive for just one dinner with a man no one knows much about. Yoon-joo turns on her: “This is not just a dinner with any person. Jean Thierry Cha is the youngest CEO of Artemis and last year brought in millions for the company in sales.”

Before Yoon-joo can bark at Se-kyung for her ignorance again, Se-kyung receives a text from Ah-jung; she’s just found an information gold mine!

Ah-jung discovered that Yoon-joo had lived in France under the name “Cha Yoon-joo.” A photo was posted on a classmate’s home page of Yoon-joo standing in front of a church with a white dress. It looks like an unofficial wedding photo, but Yoon-joo had taken on her husband’s last name.

Se-kyung pauses – isn’t the president’s last name Shin? That’s the twist, Ah-jung exclaims. Yoon-joo lived with and married a man named Cha in France, but then left him for the wealthier Shin Min-hyuk. Since the wedding wasn’t official, it was easier to leave. As cold-hearted as Yoon-joo was, Se-kyung can’t help but admire that Yoon-joo managed to do what others couldn’t do. Her skill was in using men, and she’s used that skill most effectively.

Ah-jung adds that In-chan had not reported to work that day, which makes Se-kyung worried over his whereabouts. He still does not pick up her calls, so Se-kyung rushes to the Artemis store to see if the refund can be issued more quickly. She thinks that he’s still avoiding her because of the bills he needs to pay.

The saleslady at Artemis apologizes to her, but frankly states that they may not be able to refund her at all. There is a defective stitching in the bag that would have rendered it unsaleable. However way Se-kyung got it, the bag is actually not meant to be sold by the brand. Se-kyung is sure that her bag is not a counterfeit, or illegally distributed, but she hopes that the saleslady can give her the refund soon.

As she leaves, she knocks into a snooty lady with an Artemis bag as well. This lady is also throwing a fit, wanting a refund because her bag is defective. The saleslady repeats that they do not fix or refund illegally distributed merchandise, which makes the customer even more angry.

Seung-jo is called out in the middle of his work to resolve the issue. (He was only posting little tidbits such as “Artemis raising prices soon!” as a random user on forums to encourage people to buy Artemis bags now.) When the customer sees Seung-jo, she takes the bag and throws it right at him. He coolly catches it right in front of his face, and even smirks at his own awesomeness. Heh.

The customer claims that the company is conning them, selling defective merchandise but then saying that they didn’t officially sell it. She admits to not having bought it at an official store, but she still wants to be compensated. Seung-jo acquiesces on her request for an exchange, and she chooses an even more expensive bag. Even though the prices are not equal, Seung-jo has Secretary Moon hand it over to the customer right away to make her happy.

They have a bigger problem at hand: Someone is illegally selling their merchandise.

Seung-jo has his secretary call for a meeting, and then he receives a video message from none other than his father. Il-nam: “I heard you had your bags illegally distributed!” He laughs derisively over Seung-jo’s misfortune and points out that his son’s habit of holding grudges comes from him. That annoys Seung-jo even more.

At the meeting, he asks the department heads if they know anything about products being illegally distributed. Seung-jo finds out that Marketing Assistant So In-chan hasn’t been in the past couple of days, so he is most likely the culprit. He orders them to find In-chan. They cannot afford to have someone selling their products at half the price.

Ah-jung later calls Se-kyung to inform her that In-chan is in trouble, and she meets Secretary Moon (though she doesn’t know that this is the real one) about it. She can’t believe that In-chan would do something like this, but realizes that he could if he’s in so much debt. She tries calling him numerous times and visits his home to see if he is there. He’s not, and she finds all his bills instead.

Seung-jo is likewise curious about In-chan, who basically is robbing him. He discovers that In-chan has a lot of personal debt.

Ah-jung doesn’t want Se-kyung associating herself with In-chan or even go looking for him, as it can reflect negatively on her. Se-kyung isn’t going to try and be responsible for his debt, but she also can’t imagine leaving him alone at this moment. She’ll find him, but she’ll pretend that she doesn’t know about his illegal actions. Se-kyung adamantly believes that debt is something that can be paid off with enough hard work; it’s just money, not a disease. Ah-jung: “Nowadays, poverty is like a disease.”

Se-kyung leaves to search for In-chan, but first, she must run some errands for Yoon-joo.

Yoon-joo is cutting some flower arrangements when Se-kyung arrives with some clothing. Yoon-joo has already heard of In-chan’s predicament, and knows that he’s Se-kyung’s boyfriend. She too advises Se-kyung to stay away from him, and then has her drop off her clothing in her dressing room. That’s just an excuse to have Se-kyung see her spacious dressing room with all its expensive brands of clothing and bags.

Se-kyung realizes just how unattainable her dreams might be, and she takes her leave. As she’s about to get on the elevator, she bumps into Min-hyuk, who’s returning home. Min-hyuk recognizes her and kindly asks her to take care of him and his wife. He also admired her motto – “L’effort est ma force.” Se-kyung is confused as to how he would know her motto if he wasn’t at the interview. He reveals that he watches videos of all the interviews with his wife.

With his wife?! So that means Yoon-joo knew she had interviewed for the company! That means Se-kyung was accepted because Yoon-joo had pulled some strings!

At that moment, Yoon-joo comes out to the foyer to see what was taking her husband so long to enter the house. She sees Se-kyung glaring at her, and glares right back. Min-hyuk takes his leave, and Yoon-joo confronts Se-kyung. So, did she hear the truth?

Se-kyung feigns ignorance and says that she’ll just be taking her leave. Yoon-joo scornfully says that Se-kyung’s reaction to all this is no fun; perhaps because Se-kyoung’s currently in a lower status she can’t really do much against Yoon-joo? Se-kyung then smiles. Does Yoon-joo think she just won? Because in her book, Yoon-joo is not a winner.

Yoon-joo can’t believe she’s getting lectured, so she fires back on her own. “Do you know why you were selected for the job?” Yoon-joo says nastily. “It’s because you were trembling. It was obvious you were trying so hard to look good.” She points out that even if Se-kyung is angry over getting the job not by her own merit, she tells her that what’s important is she has a job. And, no matter what, she emphasizes that she got to her married position through her own “talents” too.

Revenge for Yoon-joo is sweet. Se-kyung can’t do anything but wallow in self-pity and search for In-chan again. She is so frustrated by his absence that she throws her bag while knocking on his front gate. Some of her belongings fall out, and she picks them up to find an old photo from last year. Se-kyung and In-chan had a part-time job where they wore mascot outfits and took pictures with children. It was exhausting for the both of them, but they took a cute picture to commemorate their work. In-chan even promised that he wouldn’t make her work so hard the following year.

Se-kyung puts the photo in an envelope, and then adds it to the mailbox. Finally her cellphone rings – it’s In-chan. Except he’s calling from a pay phone and can’t find the words to speak when she picks up. He just listens to her say she misses him, and breaks down into tears while on the phone. Another sobfest ensues.

Meanwhile for the rich, Seung-jo is having a blast as he prepares for the dinner meeting. His revenge is imminent, but first – he sees Se-kyung at the lobby begging the receptionist to let her see “Secretary Moon.” Seung-jo is initially ready to ignore her, but overhears that she wants to talk about In-chan. That piques his interest, and he goes to talk to her in a private office.

Se-kyung is initially reluctant to talk to him despite his insistence that he is the secretary, but she simply wants him to know that In-chan will return and pay back the money. Seung-jo is skeptical – did In-chan say himself that he was going to return, and did she see him? Seung-jo sighs: “That’s how they’re all like. They send a woman to say it rather than coming on their own.”

Se-kyung insists that he did not send her, that she came on her own because she has faith In-chan will return. She knows that he has a strong sense of responsibility. Seung-jo wonders if Se-kyung knows about his long-standing debt and poor credit score.

Seung-jo: Think about this very carefully. Then you will realize, “Oh no, I must have been sooo crazy! I need to face reality and get away from him (In-chan) as soon as possible!” That’s what you’ll end up thinking.

How does he know this is how Se-kyung will judge In-chan? It’s because he understands the female psyche. Se-kyung scoffs. He may claim to know women very well, but it’s obvious that he has never loved someone, or been loved – right? She turns to leave, but stops to say one last thing: “Are you even the CEO? You act like you are, but you’re most likely not. So stop pretending like you are one and relay my message to him!”

Danggit – I thought she really did figure him out. Who does she think the real Secretary Moon is then?

Seung-jo sputters that he has  loved someone before, but of course Se-kyung is barely listening to him as she leaves.

Seung-jo goes down to his car to head to the dinner, and finds Dong-wook there with a gift for him. It’s a recorder disguised as a pen. Dong-wook assures that it works, as he uses it on his patients as well. Hmm – seems like Dong-wook is not just a friend, but also Seung-jo’s doctor. He pushes Dong-wook out of the car and turns on the recorder: “Just wait, Seo Yoon-joo. Here comes Edmond Dantes…” Great – this drama is “Count of Monte Cristo” and “Alice in Wonderland” in one.

Seung-jo arrives at the Shin household, and as he goes up the elevator, Min-hyuk, In-hwa, and Yoon-joo wait in the foyer for him. The elevator doors open… and Seung-jo smiles.

Yoon-joo can barely cover up her horror as she sees her former “husband” and love of her life standing at her front door.

Instead of hosting the dinner in triumph, it becomes a reserved affair for Yoon-joo. In-hwa does all the work in complimenting Seung-jo for his marketing strategies that brought success to the Artemis brand in Korea. Seung-jo smiles; he had a lot of personal experience that allowed him to think deeply into the Korean woman’s psyche and developed his marketing strategy around that. It just seems like they just want more and more. Advantage Seung-jo.

In-hwa notices that Seung-jo keeps speaking at Yoon-joo, but that she doesn’t really respond satisfactorily as the wife of Min-hyuk, thus increasing her disappointment in her sister-in-law. Min-hyuk is curious as to what “experience” Seung-jo had that was significant enough to make him come up with the “higher prices” marketing strategy. Thank goodness Seung-jo says that story is for another time.

Yoon-joo goes into the wine cabinet to pick up some more wine, and there Seung-jo meets her privately. She outright calls him a loser, but Seung-jo smirks. Guess what? She and her husband have to suck up to that “loser.” Yoon-joo amazingly has the gall to ask Seung-jo to protect her – to not reveal anything about their past relationship. Seung-jo is not surprised at her selfishness, but assures her that he’s just here to return something to her.

Back at the dinner table, he tells everyone he’s also the new CEO of Eclaire Korea, so he brought a small gift for Yoon-joo. Inside is a slim silver bangle – and Seung-jo has a matching pair. Yoon-joo recognizes it and glares at him, which only makes him happier on the inside.

On the ride back home, Seung-jo rewinds the recording and continuously giggles over the part where Yoon-joo calls him a loser. Listening to Yoon-joo sound defeated has never made him feel better.

Se-kyung is back at In-chan’s place, and this time she finds that his front gate is unlocked. She starts pounding at his door, and he appears behind her. What is she doing here? Se-kyung cries tearfully, “Where have you been!?” hitting him first, and then finally embracing him because she missed him so much.

They head to a nearby playground to talk about In-chan’s future. He’ll most likely be fired, but he’ll find a way to survive. He takes out the envelope she left at his place, which is also full of little love notes he had written to her during their relationship. And then he pulls out a lighter, and sets fire to it. Ack!

Se-kyung tries to stop him but In-chan forces her to take a hard look at reality. The whole “Efforts make a difference” credo is all bullshit to him, because no matter how hard he tried and how hard he worked, he couldn’t change a thing. He wanted to show her that he could succeed, and then marry her and start a family. But no matter how much he tried, he just sunk deeper into debt. He never wanted her or their future children to have to live in poverty because of him.

Of all things, his mother’s life could easily be saved by just a few of those Artemis bags, so that’s why he stole them. He was then able to pay off the medical bill and his mother was able to get surgery. But even though his mother’s surgery was successful, In-chan could not be happy. Now he needs to pay another medical bill, and they don’t know when her rare cancer will strike again. He hates himself for even wishing that his mother could have died, because that would have solved all of his problems.

He doesn’t want Se-kyung by his side anymore, because he doesn’t want her to see him like this. I’m actually even more scared because all this depressive talk makes me fear that he just might commit suicide and run away from his problems… Se-kyung apologizes for continually telling him that ideally, things will work out if they work hard. Sometimes things don’t work out that way, even though she really believed it. In-chan really doesn’t want her to be around to see him as such a failure. They embrace, sobbing all the way through.

Dude – can’t In-chan catch a break? I have yet to see him smile once in the present-time.

Back at home, Seung-jo looks at his silver bangle, which is engraved with “S.J. Cha” on the inside. Likewise, Yoon-joo’s bangle is engraved with “Y.J. Cha,” and both think about what had been between the two of them. Meanwhile Se-kyung also returns home wondering what could have been for both her and In-chan. Her father thinks that Se-kyung is worried over their home and promises that their house won’t be foreclosed. He and her mother will simply work hard to come up with the money. “Some things will never change even if you try,” he mournfully says. “But if you believe that, you can’t live. You have to believe that it will change.”

It’s more despairing food for thought, but now Se-kyung takes new meaning to her own credo. Her effort is her strength? Alright then.

A maid informs Yoon-joo that she has a visitor, and initially Yoon-joo is apprehensive because she thinks it might be Seung-jo. She lets out a sigh of relief when she finds out it’s just Se-kyung.

Se-kyung just wanted to ask Yoon-joo a couple of things: Yoon-joo had studied abroad in France right? As Cha Yoon-joo? Yoon-joo’s eyes widen – how did Se-kyung know that?! Se-kyung shows her the wedding photo on her phone, and dares Yoon-joo to delete it. Clearly she has other copies. Se-kyung just wants to know if Yoon-joo really worked hard to earn her current status in life.

Yes – Se-kyung is threatening Yoon-joo’s current position with that wedding photo, as she can bring her rival down in one instant. But she doesn’t plan to destroy Yoon-joo. Rather, she wants to know what Yoon-joo did to get to where she is now. “Let me know your secret as well,” she says. And with that, we no longer have our innocent Candy girl.

Comments:

I was hoping this drama would go for a more whimsical take on Cheongdam-dong, and instead we are hit with melodrama over the travails of the poor. The problems of the rich and their little revenge merry-go-round seem so petty when juxtaposed with Se-kyung and In-chan’s difficulty in finding a way just to make money. But perhaps that’s how we’re supposed to feel, that the rich in Cheongdam-dong are so idly rich that they use their money and companies to get what they want.

At one point I felt this drama become slightly similar to Queen of Housewives, except instead of it being a popularity contest, it’s more about the smart one not being savvy enough to step over others to get to the top. But I was more impressed that this drama just breaks down the Candy-girl imagery that we’re so used to seeing in this kind of drama. Don’t we want to see that girl work her way to the top? Don’t we want to see her prove that hard work is all you need?

All those cliches we were used to regarding our heroine is being broken down further with this drama, and I am very curious to see how Se-kyung will remain sympathetic if she’s going to learn how to be more like Yoon-joo and find a man as a means to her end. (Ha – this drama is just sexist all around.) I already feel that Se-kyung is more shallow than she acts, as she knows the prices to all the goods, but doesn’t display any uniqueness to her fashion style; it’s as if she wanted to be a fashion designer for the glamour and the money, not for the art. That already is not what a typical “Candy girl” in the fashion industry should be acting like, I feel.

Note that it’s mere curiosity that’s driving my interest in this series right now, because I want to see Yoon-joo sort of be like a mentor to Se-kyung, even though they’re rivals. I want to see how Min-hyuk will treat Se-kyung as an employee because it looks like he might be a sympathetic character to her plight. I want to see how Seung-jo will deal with Se-kyung as she changes from a hard-working girl to a more cunning one willing to marry just to succeed. On top of that, this drama is supposed to have an Alice in Wonderland theme (visible in some of the promotional pictures and teaser) with Se-kyung as Alice, Seung-jo as the Mad Hatter, Yoon-joo as the Queen of Hearts, and Kim Ji-suk’s character Tommy Hong as the Cheshire Cat (most likely). Man, I’m curious how all of this will come together.

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The collar and sleeves on that white lace dress on Yoon-joo makes her look way too much like Miss Havisham.

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I am loving this drama already! Does anyone know the song that plays at the end when Se-kyung says "Yeah. I'm threatening you."????

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