Woman of Dignity: Episode 2
Things are slowly starting to unravel for Ah-jin this hour. But while her life turns to shambles, Bok-ja continues her steady rise from country bumpkin to wealthy Seoulite. What started as a cordial relationship is about to turn sour, but how long can Bok-ja keep her agenda hidden before the other ladies of the household step in to put an end to it?
EPISODE 2 RECAP
We catch up with Ah-jin getting her makeup done in a salon, and she tells her stylists that her goal today is for people to wonder whether she’s wearing makeup or not.
Meanwhile, Hyo-joo checks herself into a hotel suite. She calls home to say that she won’t be back home until around 9:00 p.m. tonight while she slowly sheds her clothing. Sure enough, we see a man checking into a room a few floors down.
Back in his office, Ah-jin’s husband Jae-suk argues with an employee over the color of their brand of toilet paper. The employee explains the health risks of the bleach used to make the toilet paper white and claims that consumers won’t want to buy it anymore. Jae-suk isn’t buying it though and argues that housewives only care about the price, not what color it is, so they just have to beat their competitors on price.
Despite the employee indignantly asking if Jae-suk would let his own daughter continue to use white toilet paper now that he knows the risks, Jae-suk dismisses him and moves onto his real concern: a redesign of their tissue boxes, preferably featuring Sung-hee’s pop art.
Ah-jin meditates with the rest of her identically dressed meditation class when a new face walks in and sits down next to her. This is KANG KI-HO (Lee Ki-woo), and he introduces himself to the rest of the class as an attorney who deals with a variety of issues like divorce, inheritance, and fraud.
The class divides into pairs, and they’re tasked with telling their partner ten reasons why they need to exist. Ki-ho and Ah-jin pause awkwardly before she tells him that he can go first. He peers at her unassumingly before asking suddenly, “Do you normally put this much makeup on?” Ha.
Ah-jin is ruffled by the question and explains that she has an interview later, adding that when she puts on a little makeup, it looks like a lot. Turning the tables, she asks if Ki-ho is married, and whether he dislikes it when his wife wears makeup. When he affirms her suspicions, she explains how she could tell: “You don’t have much depth in your words or actions. People can see right through you.”
She tells him to just compliment his wife when he sees her wearing a lot of makeup: “Tell her she’s pretty, so pretty, very pretty.” So when Ah-jin tells Ki-ho to start with the task of telling her why she should exist, he parrots back, “You’re pretty, so pretty, very pretty.” Hahaha.
At the hotel, Hyo-joo receives a visitor in the form of the man we saw checking into the other room earlier. She smiles as he enters her room, and they share a kiss. In voiceover, we hear Bok-ja say, “When we say that we know someone well, how much do we actually know about that person? Knowing someone may be a blessing, but it can be a curse.”
Back at the Ahn Estate, Bok-ja tells someone on the phone that she’ll pay back what she owes them, but she’s interrupted when she finds Joo-mi eavesdropping nearby. Not only has Joo-mi caught her talking about her debt, she’s caught her talking like someone from Seoul, which is not at all like the country accent Bok-ja’s been using.
Bok-ja’s voiceover concludes, “A relationship that starts without prior intent is always proper. For all things and people, the moment comes when their true nature is revealed. Those things and people whose natures are discovered must quickly hide their real identities. Because it interferes with arriving at one’s goal.”
Ah-jin and Joo-kyung (the friend who runs an after-school tutoring center) discuss their meditation lesson. Joo-kyung reveals that Ki-ho’s wife died in a car accident on their honeymoon and that he also lost both of his parents, prompting Ah-jin to reconsider her negative impression of him.
Meanwhile, Hyo-joo and her lover leave her hotel room after they finish their business, but they’re unknowingly spotted by a hotel employee on the way out. The employee seems to recognize Hyo-joo as he hides in the doorway of another room.
At the Ahn Estate, daughter-in-law Joo-mi bursts into Chairman Ahn’s room to tell him about the phone conversation she overheard, only to find Bok-ja already there, attending to the chairman. Bok-ja cuts her off before she can get a word in by asking Joo-mi to call the driver — but tellingly, she uses the Seoul accent that Joo-mi overheard her speaking in earlier.
As the chairman stares up at Bok-ja in shock, she explains that while she came from the country, she’s lived in Seoul so long that she’s picked up the accent and switches between them regularly. Asking the chairman which accent he prefers, Bok-ja takes the silence to mean that he likes her country accent more, though she doesn’t look too happy with that answer as she storms out past a stunned Joo-mi.
At her husband’s hospital, Ki-ok drops off some beverages for the staff members. The staff members lie that he’s in surgery right now when in reality, he’s out with his mistress, Kyung-hee, and they gossip amongst themselves that Ki-ok is apparently the only one oblivious to her husband’s infidelity.
While giving an art lesson to Ah-jin’s daughter, Ji-hoo, Sung-hee casually asks Ji-hoo who is picking her up after the lesson. She’s disappointed to hear that it won’t be Jae-suk.
The moms have called an emergency meeting because a new, less-qualified student enrolled in the same after-school program as their kids. Ah-jin seems distracted by her own thoughts but argues that they’re being too sensitive.
They trade barbs back and forth, but nobody is budging from their position. Ah-jin says she’s going to keep Ji-hoo at the same academy, but when the rest of the moms express their desire to leave, Ah-jin shoots daggers across the table at them — specifically Kyung-hee, who makes some mean-spirited connotations regarding Ji-hoo’s good grades.
Ah-jin returns home to find Joo-mi drinking by herself in the dark. Ah-jin offers to take Joo-mi out for the night, but Joo-mi laments that there are no street stalls in Gangnam that sell the cheap food she’s craving. Ah-jin says they can still go out and drink all night anyway, and Joo-mi finally agrees.
Before they leave, Ah-jin asks curiously what Chairman Ahn and Bok-ja are doing, and Joo-mi lets out a haughty laugh as she says that they went out on a date, which comes as a surprise to Ah-jin.
Jae-suk shows up at Sung-hee’s studio with a bouquet of flowers. He’s there to pick up Ji-hoo, but that’s not going to stop him from openly flirting with Sung-hee and inviting himself in for dinner.
Meanwhile, Bok-ja pushes Chairman Ahn around the neighborhood while out on their date. Bok-ja describes how there used to be poetry readings in this neighborhood long ago, and Chairman Ahn reveals that he loves poetry as he recites a poem from memory for her.
Giving Bok-ja (and us) a bit of his backstory, the chairman explains that he only ever finished middle school and was so ashamed of it that he stole a friend’s high school textbook and carried it around with him to pretend that he was a high school student. Eventually, he says that he decided to read the book and fell so in love with the poem inside that he memorized it.
He turns to Bok-ja and earnestly tells her that she doesn’t need to pretend to be someone else like he did — she can speak in her country accent freely, without having to pretend like she’s from Seoul.
She looks genuinely affected by this conversation, and she explains in voiceover, “How I felt about the chairman wasn’t a complete lie. Some days, I’d feel really bad toward him. Sometimes I’d tear up at how much he liked me. There’s no complete lie in the world, just as there is no complete truth in the world either.”
Jae-suk and Ji-hoo leave Sung-hee’s studio together, and Sung-hee smiles brightly as she notices that there are two theater tickets tucked away inside the bouquet Jae-suk brought her.
Back in his car, Jae-suk and Ji-hoo discuss the sad ballads that she listens to all the time. Jae-suk is perplexed at his daughter’s mature musical tastes and wonders why she isn’t listening to mindless pop music like she should be.
Too-smart Ji-hoo is having none of it though, as she eloquently explains that what he’s suggesting is akin to how dictators used the Renaissance to distract commoners during the Middle Ages.
Bok-ja tucks Chairman Ahn into bed and feeds him his medicine. She gets up to leave, but he stops her to express his genuine thanks for her company today. She takes her leave, looking a bit shaken.
Jae-suk heads to the noraebang to pick up his wife and sister-in-law, finding Ah-jin absolutely smashed. At the mention of her daughter waiting in the car, though, Ah-jin gives up on the idea of shots and sobers herself up before heading out of the room.
The next morning, a hungover Ah-jin prepares cereal for Jae-suk as he teases her about last night. He mentions that he plans to stop in to meet the new caregiver before work, but Ah-jin again tells him that she has to fire her because of how opposed Joo-mi is to her.
Joo-mi enters Chairman Ahn’s room before heading to work, only to find Bok-ja vigorously massaging his legs. After Joo-mi leaves, Bok-ja wheels the chairman into another room and asks him if he’d like to dance. She starts some old-timey dance music and sways back and forth in front of him before wheeling him around in a slow dance.
Ah-jin watches on from the hallway and smiles to see her father-in-law so delighted. She changes her mind again and decides not to fire Bok-ja after all.
At the art gallery, Ah-jin asks Sung-hee if her husband’s company can use her art on the tissue boxes, even offering to pay royalties and put Sung-hee’s name on the boxes to promote her name. Sung-hee asks how much Jae-suk discusses business with his wife, and Ah-jin gushes that nothing works in their family without her.
The other moms are all gossiping over Ah-jin’s interview in the newspaper regarding her daughter winning the math contest, all of them exasperated at how fake she is. As they’re chatting, Hyo-joo sees a comment on her recent social media post saying, “I know what you did in Room 702.” She leaves in a panic.
Back at home, Ah-jin and personal secretary(?) Jin-hee make jewelry together while Jin-hee catches her up on all the latest gossip, including the affair between Ki-ok’s husband and Kyung-hee. Jin-hee also brings up Hyo-joo’s hotelier husband, who openly bought a car and a house for his mistress.
Finally, Jin-hee says that word on the street is that Kyung-hee’s husband hits her, which is why she’s having an affair with Ki-ok’s husband, who’s kinder. Ah-jin feels thankful for her husband despite his goofiness, but Jin-hee just says, “My mom told me to never trust a guy until he’s lying down in his casket.”
Outside the estate, Bok-ja helps Chairman Ahn walk around a bit. He asks Bok-ja what she’d like him to buy her, and she can’t contain her excitement when he refers to her by her actual name instead of the usual “Ms. Park.”
Initially, she says that she doesn’t want to buy anything, but she starts mumbling about the bags that rich women carry around with them. Surprised that she only wants a bag, Chairman Ahn tells her to call for the driver so she can go shopping, adding that she should buy clothes and shoes too.
Bok-ja does as Chairman Ahn says, but it’s clear that the thing she still cares about most is the bag. She excuses herself to the bathroom, where she admires her new bag in the mirror with tears streaming down her face. The trickle of tears turns into a waterfall, and she’s soon so overcome that she falls to the floor sobbing as she clutches the bag.
As she arrives back at the estate carrying all of the new clothes Chairman Ahn just bought for her, she runs into Joo-mi. Flying into a rage, Joo-mi slaps Bok-ja across the face and launches into a series of scathing insults while dumping the contents of the shopping bags all over the floor.
“You’re a piece of trash. You think this matches your lowly life? You should know your place, Park Bok-ja!” Joo-mi screams, leaving Bok-ja shaking in her wake.
Hyo-joo checks back into her hotel room and finds a note from the hotel employee asking her to contact him. They agree to meet privately in Seoul.
Meanwhile, Bok-ja leaves the estate wearing her new outfit and checks herself into a motel. Chairman Ahn is livid at the news and orders Joo-mi to bring her back, but Joo-mi insists that she’ll find a new caregiver for him.
Chairman Ahn is skeptical of Ah-jin’s claims that she’ll bring Bok-ja back, since Bok-ja won’t even pick up his calls. Extremely upset, he cries, “I felt alive for the first time in years. Thanks to her, I laughed a lot, and I was happy.”
Joo-mi explains what happened during their confrontation, saying that she was heartbroken that a caregiver would have that bag when not even she has it. Exploding, Joo-mi says that Bok-ja only makes him feel happy because that’s what they hired her for. Chairman Ahn explodes in return and threatens to throw both Joo-mi and her son out of his house if they can’t find Bok-ja again.
After Chairman Ahn leaves, Joo-mi warns Ah-jin against meeting with Bok-ja before storming off. Ah-jin checks in on her father-in-law one more time and finds him weeping in his room, distraught at Bok-ja’s departure.
Bok-ja is still clutching her bag under her arm as she eats at a restaurant, and while she ignores Ah-jin’s first call, she calls Ah-jin back when Ah-jin texts that Chairman Ahn might call the cops to report her missing. She arranges to meet with Ah-jin, who can’t help but notice that her country accent disappeared.
Hyo-joo meets with the hotel employee, and none of her excuses fool him — he looked up her lover’s records and found that he always stayed in the hotel whenever she did without ever actually using his room. Though he couldn’t be any nicer about it, he shyly asks for about three thousand dollars in cash and a promotion, which she should be able to make happen with her husband being the owner of the hotel.
Ah-jin joins Bok-ja at another restaurant and compliments her new outfit before offering her a gift of her own: It’s the jewelry she was making earlier. Ah-jin helps her put the bracelet on and asks Bok-ja to return to the estate, adding that Chairman Ahn cried because he missed her.
Bok-ja looks reluctant, so Ah-jin grabs her by the arm and tells her that she’ll drag her there if she has to. But Bok-ja’s eyes are caught by the bracelet Ah-jin is wearing. Not missing a beat, Ah-jin instantly removes it and places it on Bok-ja’s wrist. Bok-ja gives a weak protest but seems swayed by the gifts.
Bok-ja heads back to the estate with Ah-jin, and they find Chairman Ahn feeding the birds outside. He lights up when he sees Bok-ja again.
Ah-jin takes a yoga class with Ki-ok, and afterward, Ki-ok asks if Ah-jin is really going to stay at the after-school program. She tries to convince Ah-jin to join their private tutoring group, but Ah-jin doesn’t understand why mothers would leave an after-school program over a few students.
Ki-ok tells her to just go with it, but that doesn’t seem to sway Ah-jin’s opinion. Still, the two can laugh afterward, so there are no hurt feelings.
Bok-ja continues to help Chairman Ahn with his rehab. When he asks Bok-ja where she slept while she was gone, she admits that she stayed in a motel because of her debt. He asks how much she owes, but she coyly says that with the raise Ah-jin promised her, she can pay it off in a year.
Of course, Chairman Ahn says that he can pay her debt off for her, despite her very meek protests. Lamenting over his own life, the chairman says that he can’t take his money with him when he dies anyway, so he asks her to tell him how much she owes. She doesn’t answer, but she looks away from him to hide her facial expression.
Back in her own home, Ah-jin finds out that Bok-ja changed the cleaning schedule without asking her first, so she calls Bok-ja over to confront her about it. Firm now, she tells Bok-ja that she must get permission from either her or Joo-mi before deciding on anything.
In fact, she says that Bok-ja should follow Joo-mi’s orders at all times, adding that she should go to her for final approval on all decisions. Ah-jin even tells Bok-ja to get her pay from Joo-mi too, trying to drive home who is really in charge in this family. Bok-ja slyly agrees to follow her orders.
Hyo-joo eats dinner with her husband and casually brings up the hotel employee, complimenting his work and asking if it’s possible to make him a contract employee. Though her husband is wary of her lofty reasoning for her request, he asks for the employee’s name one more time and eyes her leerily as she answers.
Jae-suk takes Sung-hee to the play he bought tickets for earlier and takes her hand, which she accepts. But at dinner afterward, she expresses her concerns about having a relationship she has to hide. She tells Jae-suk that she shouldn’t have let him into her place and that it’s too hard to have him in her heart knowing that he already has a family.
Jae-suk is unperturbed though, saying that it’s no big deal these days. She still wants to stop, but Jae-suk promises that he won’t get caught. “Ah-jin’s actually pretty simple-minded. There’s no way she’d even imagine it,” he boasts.
Back at the estate, Joo-mi wears a smug grin now that (she thinks) Bok-ja knows that she’s the one in charge. Her first order is for Bok-ja to move out of the house — she can come in to work, but she can’t stay. Bok-ja looks annoyed, but since she’s in no place to argue, she quickly accepts.
Joo-mi tells her to move out as soon as possible, and Bok-ja nods and quietly says to herself that she’ll need to get a place that’s big enough for Chairman Ahn to be comfortable.
Joo-mi is confused, and Bok-ja’s entire demeanor changes as she looks Joo-mi dead in the eye: “Are you trying to have your father-in-law die from shock? So that your son can quickly receive his inheritance? Is that your plan?”
An enraged Joo-mi glares across the table, but Bok-ja has all the leverage now and knows it. Leaning in, Bok-ja says menacingly, “Don’t mess with me. Otherwise, you might be the one who’s thrown out.”
Alone together in a parked car, Jae-suk asks Sung-hee if they can kiss in about the least tactful way possible. Sung-hee is taken aback by his forwardness, but he insists before leaning over and planting a sloppy kiss on her lips. Next thing we know, they’re back in her studio fumbling their clothes off as they make their way to the bed.
Jae-suk returns home afterward and runs right into Ah-jin. He awkwardly answers her questions before heading off to bed, but not without her noting that something was strange.
As Bok-ja tucks Chairman Ahn into bed, he grabs her arm and stares longingly up at her. Cut to: Chairman Ahn walking down the aisle, quickly followed by his bride, Bok-ja, as Ah-jin looks on from the front row apprehensively.
The two are about to take their vows when Jae-suk interrupts the proceedings to scream at his father, his eyebrows completely white. As he gets dragged out, Jae-suk yells that he wants to get remarried too, much to Ah-jin’s horror.
Ah-jin wakes up from her nightmare and uses her phone’s flashlight to check the status of her husband’s silkworm eyebrows, and is comforted by the sight. If only she knew.
Later that night, Joo-mi strolls through the estate and finds Bok-ja’s room empty. She walks past her father-in-law’s room and sees something that makes her gasp in horror and call Ah-jin right away.
Though Ah-jin wakes to find Jae-suk no longer in bed, she has more pressing matters to attend to and leaves for the estate. She arrives to see Joo-mi staring into Chairman Ahn’s room, and when she looks in herself, she sees the reason why: Bok-ja’s snuggling in bed with Chairman Ahn.
Now that Bok-ja fully has her claws embedded in Chairman Ahn, it’s hard to imagine that she’s going to let go easily. Part of the reason she managed to infiltrate this family so easily was that she managed to keep her intentions under wraps from most of the family. Sure, Joo-mi caught on fairly quickly, but Ah-jin was blind to Bok-ja’s ulterior motives, and once the momentum started there was no stopping it.
Even now that Ah-jin can plainly see that Bok-ja is seducing Chairman Ahn, there’s no way she’s going to be able to break the spell that Bok-ja seems to have put over him. He was inconsolable when she walked out of the house on her own, so imagine how he’ll take it if either of the other women try to remove Bok-ja against her (and his) will.
I have to echo Bok-ja’s actual sentiments towards Chairman Ahn. In a way, he’s the least atrocious male character in this whole drama so far. Not that it’s a very high bar at this point, what with every other male so obsessed with cheating as much as possible, but Chairman Ahn is tragic in his own way. He’s a lonely widower whose kids are a disaster from what we’ve seen, and she’s the first woman who has shown him absolute devotion in a long time, and the first woman who has given him his first taste of happiness in a long while. It’s not hard to see why he has fallen so hard for her. Even Bok-ja feels bad for him, knowing how much he truly cares about her.
I’d be remiss not to talk about the bizarre tonal shifts this show likes to throw around. One minute we’re watching Jae-suk bumble around like a dullard, and in the next, we have Bok-ja using her sway over Chairman Ahn to grab even the smallest bit of power she can. Granted, some of my favorite moments are when we get those Bok-ja voiceovers talking about the deeper themes we’re meant to be getting at with this show. I love this show when it is at its most serious, and usually, the show uses Bok-ja to accomplish that. But that just makes me want to cut out all of the lighter moments so that I can get more Bok-ja all the time.
She is such a fascinating character, even if it’s mostly because she’s practically a sociopath. She very clearly only cares about herself and her own goals, and I desperately want to learn more about what is driving her to take such extreme measures to get what she wants. We don’t know where her debt came from, or how she is related to the young man who helped her set up this job opportunity, or why a handbag is so important to her that it reduces her to a puddle of tears.
Even more importantly, though, why is she so hell-bent on getting into the upper echelon of society when she seemingly came from nothing in the first place? There are so many questions I want answered about her that I feel we haven’t even scratched the surface of her character. Even still, she feels like one of the most deeply intriguing female characters I’ve seen in a drama in a long time.
Which is crazy, considering that we haven’t even touched on Ah-jin. Her imminent fall from grace surely won’t be pretty, but at the same time, it promises to be a fascinating story in and of itself. She’s almost the exact opposite of Bok-ja — she’s too trusting and too naïve to see everything starting to fall apart around her. With her loving husband now cheating on her, the group of moms choosing to leave the academy despite her protests, and now her father-in-law being taken in by the woman she let into the house without a second thought, things are already looking dire.
And with Bok-ja grabbing the upper hand through her sheer cutthroat mentality, it’s going to be tough for Ah-jin to keep the walls from crumbling around her. The two are on completely opposite trajectories right now, and Ah-jin is going to have to learn from her mistakes the hard way when it all comes crashing down.
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