Woman of Dignity: Episode 4
Everyone has their secrets, but they don’t seem to be very good at keeping them, either from their own lack of caution or someone else’s desire to expose them. Ah-jin seems to finally be catching onto the kind of person that Bok-ja really is, but what if it’s too late to stop her?
EPISODE 4 RECAP
We pick back up at the Ahn Estate, where Bok-ja is tormenting Joo-mi with her new cat. Ah-jin arrives just then and snatches the cat away, demanding to know what it’s doing there. Bok-ja slides back into her subservient persona and innocently explains that the chairman bought it for her. Ah-jin argues that that’s impossible, since Chairman Ahn is fully aware of Joo-mi’s fur allergy.
Bok-ja meekly points out that she wouldn’t lie, especially when the chairman is in the next room. Ah-jin isn’t backing down, however, and asserts that Bok-ja isn’t in the position to be making any decisions on her own. Bok-ja insists that she had no choice since the chairman bought it and gave it to her, asking how she could have possibly refused.
Ah-jin finally relents when Bok-ja promises to keep the cat upstairs and take it with her when she leaves the house for good.
After Bok-ja disappears upstairs with the cat, Ah-jin sits down with Joo-mi to tell her that she’s finally decided to fire Bok-ja. Joo-mi presses for details as to why Bok-ja agreed so easily, but Ah-jin just says that she’s taking care of it, adding that Joo-mi should focus on her son instead.
Joo-mi still can’t believe it, but Ah-jin assures her that after the chairman’s birthday in a few days, Bok-ja will be leaving. The last piece of information Ah-jin shares is that the chairman also paid off Bok-ja’s debt.
Bok-ja comes back downstairs just in time to see Ah-jin leave, and she keeps her eyes downcast until Ah-jin is gone. She’s about to resume work when Joo-mi snidely reminds her to keep her cat away, emphasizing the “even if it’s just for a few days” part. After a few more remarks, she tells Bok-ja not to become more pitiful than she already is before finally walking away.
Later that night, Bok-ja checks in on the chairman as he sleeps, her expression ominous.
At Sung-hee’s for her art lesson, Ji-hoo takes a break from sketching and notices her father and Sung-hee flirting. She silently goes back to her drawing, but it’s clear that she’s bothered by it.
During the car ride home, Ji-hoo recites the lyrics of the song she’s listening to about unhappy rich people brandishing their wealth. Jae-suk keeps asking if she’s talking about him, but she says it’s just the song. (Is it?)
Still, he declares that he doesn’t like it and tells her to listen to something lighter and happier, but Ji-hoo simply replies that they should each just listen to music according to their own tastes. “No need to build a wall between us over something so trivial,” Ji-hoo sagely says. Hehe.
The next morning, Jae-suk takes an early morning bike ride as Bok-ja narrates: “Endless chances of danger await a person with a secret.”
Speaking of people with secrets, we find Hyo-joo receiving a visitor in her hotel room — it’s her blackmailer, who happily announces that he’s been hired as a contract worker. He proceeds to thank her before offering his services in covering up all future rendezvous with her lover.
This only earns a scoff from Hyo-joo, who asks what he’s playing at. Her blackmailer expresses embarrassment for his actions, citing family struggles, but adds that he wants to help her in return for the help she’s given him.
At her rebuke, her blackmailer calmly states that they already have her lover’s records and phone number, so it won’t matter whether Hyo-joo continues to see her lover or not.
Hyo-joo thinks that he’s still trying to blackmail her, but he claims that he wants to live diligently and won’t ask her for anything anymore. Hyo-joo sneers at the contradiction and tells him to stay away from her.
Elsewhere, Ki-ok receives an anonymous text that her husband is cheating. She laughs it off, wondering if it’s a scam.
At the same time, Ah-jin’s housekeeper does the laundry and notes that Jae-suk’s cycling clothes smell oddly clean. Bok-ja narrates: “Even secrets that seemed like they’d never be exposed, covered under bubbles… They eventually expose themselves to the truth at some point.”
Back at the Ahn Estate, Bok-ja watches as Chairman Ahn plays with Cat. She smiles at how friendly the cat is before her face falls, and she muses sadly that it breaks her heart to send Cat away. The chairman asks why she would do that, and she informs him that Joo-mi doesn’t like cats and told her to get rid of it. Chairman Ahn finds the idea ridiculous and asks who Joo-mi is to tell Bok-ja that.
During Ah-jin’s next group meditation session at the park, the instructor tells them that they’ll be sharing their most precious memory with the group today. Ki-ho is selected to go first, and he remembers the first time he saw his wife: She’d been wearing mittens, and when she took them off, he’d noted how small her hands were. When he asked her why, she’d replied, “None of your business!” Haha.
Ah-jin’s up next, and she shares that her father died when she was eight and that two memories in particular stick out: The first was visiting the bathhouse together (the male side, hehe), and the second was of her father teaching her how to fold a paper crane. It had been hard, but when she finally succeeded, her father had asked if she wanted him to turn the paper crane into a real crane.
She tears up as she says that at the time, she really believed he could do it. “That’s how my dad was to me,” she adds. “I still think about my dad whenever I see a paper crane. I feel like it can turn into a real crane and fly away.” She and Ki-ok both look at each other for a brief moment before breaking the stare.
In a cafe, Bok-ja throws water in a man’s face — the man turns out to be her accomplice (aka the chairman’s trainer), and he’s just demanded a gym in return for his services. She snaps that he’s turning her into a con artist, and we now find out that the reason Bok-ja went to jail originally was to cover for his crimes.
He says he’s returning the favor by helping her now, and Bok-ja argues that he should just help and not ask for anything, then. The accomplice grumbles that it doesn’t cost much to open a gym, but she tells him that Ah-jin found out about her criminal record.
Back in the park, the meditation group is having a picnic. Ah-jin asks Ki-ho why he’s not eating, and he says he can’t eat kimbap due to trauma he’s experienced. Ah-jin points out that traumas are meant to be overcome, but Ki-ho changes the topic as he notes that she looks better without makeup, ha. She jokingly says that he’d better not like her, and he promises to try.
Looking wistfully across the park, Ah-jin muses that she likes trees because they don’t budge regardless of storms or typhoons. She doesn’t like change, she explains, so she likes trees that stay in the same place.
Ki-ho says that he likes flowers “because they’re pretty.” Ah-jin rolls her eyes, but he goes on to say that they smell nice and are always changing, though they eventually return to their seed form. “But they still stay fragrant,” he adds.
When Ah-jin takes a look up at the sky, Ki-ho quirkily offers to sell her a small portion of the sky: “It’s mine actually, you know. I’m selling you a portion for free!” Ah-jin practically shivers from how corny he’s being, but he keeps it up as he leans in and asks if she’ll pay him a fee for the “real estate” he just gave her.
Ah-jin just laughs at his antics, and to break the moment, she offers him a piece of kimbap. He shakes his head at first, but when he finally goes in for a bite, Ah-jin jokingly pulls it out of his reach before actually feeding him the bite, which he heartily chomps down on.
At a cafe, Sung-soo (Ki-ok’s husband) tells Kyung-hee about Jae-suk’s request for certain pills. Kyung-hee’s laughs at Ah-jin’s comeuppance, claiming that Ah-jin had been mean to her, while Sung-soo just shakes his head at Jae-suk’s foolishness. As for Kyung-hee, she muses that men cheat even when they have wives as pretty as Ah-jin.
They agree to meet next week, and Sung-soo suddenly snarls that if her husband ever lays his hand on her again, he won’t stand for it. Kyung-hee is touched, at least until Sung-soo says that the least her husband could do is give her money. As he lays a handful of bills in front of her, her face falls.
Jae-suk snores loudly in his office while cuddling tissue boxes with Sung-hee’s art on them. When his longsuffering employee comes in to tell him to sleep at home, Jae-suk asks which home he means before going back to sleep.
The next morning, Ah-jin has to rouse him to go for his “morning exercise.” He begs to be allowed to sleep and promises to do twice as much cycling tomorrow, but his wife tells him to be more diligent. Pfft, if only she knew…
Bok-ja cooks the chairman’s breakfast and takes him his medicine, swaying her hips seductively as she slowly makes her way around the room. Stroking his hair, Bok-ja says that she wants to dye his hair with henna, reinforcing the idea that he should want to look young — he’s a man, after all. This seems to please the chairman, who smiles and acquiesces.
But when Bok-ja is unable to find Mrs. Cho (the housekeeper) afterward, she grows uneasy.
As it turns out, Mrs. Cho is meeting with Ah-jin. She tells her about the weird way Bok-ja changes her accent, the document she found in her room with information about the Ahn family, and how Bok-ja threatened her never to mention it. She tells Ah-jin that she doesn’t think Bok-ja’s arrival was a coincidence, and Ah-jin makes her promise not to tell anyone about what they discussed.
We cut to Pungsookjeong (the side dish kitchen of the uber wealthy), where Mrs. Cho has just finished relaying the newest gossip to the other ladies. The women agree that Bok-ja is up to no good, but Mrs. Cho says that she doesn’t stand a chance against Ah-jin.
Speaking of, we find Ah-jin telling Chairman Ahn everything she’s learned about Bok-ja, including her criminal record. He asks if it’s true, and Ah-jin apologizes and says that she should’ve looked into Bok-ja’s background more carefully. She informs him that Bok-ja will be leaving following his birthday tomorrow.
But, she can’t help but ask him why he paid Bok-ja’s debts — did he consider her to be more than just a caregiver? Growing defensive, Chairman Ahn snaps that it’s his money, and therefore none of Ah-jin’s business. She leaves when the chairman kicks her out, running into Bok-ja outside.
Shrugging off Ah-jin’s cold gaze, Bok-ja opens the door to the chairman’s room, only for him to tell her not to come in.
Later, Bok-ja probes Mrs. Cho for intel and learns that Ahn Jae-hee (the chairman’s daughter) lives in Jeju, and his eldest son (Joo-mi’s husband) is estranged from his father and now lives in America. Bok-ja asks why he was kicked out, but Mrs. Cho slyly says that Bok-ja should know more than she does, considering all the research she did on the family.
Bok-ja isn’t amused, and when Mrs. Cho mentions Bok-ja’s imminent departure from the house, Bok-ja asks if that makes her useless now. Mrs. Cho immediately backpedals, but Bok-ja calls her a parasite that clings to whatever puts her in a better position.
Bok-ja brings up Mrs. Cho’s troublemaker of a son with debts and a daughter in need of kidney dialysis, and the fact that Bok-ja knows this information spooks Mrs. Cho. “I’ll never leave this house, so you better get your act straight,” Bok-ja threatens.
Ah-jin and Joo-mi greet Jae-hee, who has just arrived. Jae-hee loftily says that she came alone because her husband is too busy after acquiring another company, and though she admits to feeling terrible about leaving her sisters-in-law to take care of her ailing father, her expression is hardly apologetic.
The three run into Bok-ja, and Jae-hee comments that she’s hardly her father’s type. Bok-ja says nothing, and Jae-hee just tells her not to be greedy, since her father doesn’t need another leech like her.
After greeting her father excitedly, Jae-hee sits down with the family to eat, though she wonders about Jae-suk’s absence. Ah-jin apologizes on his behalf, saying he’s busy, and so Jae-hee brings up Joo-mi’s husband next. Since the topic is an uncomfortable one, Chairman Ahn interrupts to ask where her husband is, which seems to do the trick.
Meanwhile, we find Ah-jin’s “busy” husband in his boxers at Sung-hee’s apartment. He does a silly little dance for her before reminding her that he won’t be able to come tomorrow due to his father’s birthday party.
Instead of letting Bok-ja hand-feed him his medicine like he usually does, the chairman takes it himself, his demeanor cold. He also declares that he’ll go to work today, rather than rest another week.
When Ah-jin and Joo-mi come in from seeing the chairman off, they find Jae-hee looking for him. She whines that they should’ve woken her up since she needs to get on his good side.
When Bok-ja enters the hallway, Jae-hee asks her to make breakfast, though Bok-ja is quick to say that she’s a caregiver, not a maid. When Bok-ja pointedly asks Ah-jin for direction, Ah-jin says that since Bok-ja’s already been fired, there’s no reason for her to make breakfast.
They leave, and Bok-ja thinks back to earlier that morning, when the chairman had refused her tie recommendation and picked his own. Bok-ja narrates, “Life is a series of choices. Sometimes we choose between keeping something or throwing it away. Sometimes we have to decide what we’ll choose to be selected by another person.”
As Ah-jin helps Jae-suk pick his clothes for work, she mentions that he was seen with a young woman at a cafe, joking that he’s been caught. He tries to feign ignorance, but his expression says otherwise.
Ah-jin doesn’t give up though, and casually calls him suspicious as she names the restaurant he was seen in. Jae-suk changes tactics and pretends to suddenly remember that he met a woman from another feminine products company to ask some questions. Ah-jin thinks this over, and we hear Bok-ja say in voiceover, “She had to make a choice too.”
As Ah-jin chooses to agree that her husband’s explanation is reasonable, Bok-ja’s narration goes on to state, “Her choice was to trust her husband.”
Jae-suk makes his presentation at a meeting in front of his father. When everyone leaves, he tells the chairman that he thinks he ought to meet Bok-ja, though he guesses that his father must be kicking her out when Chairman Ahn says there’s no need for him to meet her. He then asks if his father slept with her, adding that he can’t very well throw her out after that.
Jae-suk says he’ll come over tonight, but Chairman Ahn barks that there’s no need. Jae-suk whines that everyone stops him every time he wants to greet Bok-ja: “What are we, Romeo and Juliet?” Ha!
On the way to one of her many lessons, Ji-hoo asks (personal assistant?) Jin-hee to pick her up from her art lessons from now on instead of her dad. Ji-hoo claims it’s because she likes talking to her, but Jin-hee says that Jae-suk likes picking her up — besides, she says, he’s working with Sung-hee for the company. Jin-hee adds that Jae-suk must have developed an interest in art, but even little Ji-hoo knows otherwise.
While out with the other wives, Kyung-hee receives a naughty text from Ki-ok’s husband while Ki-ok looks thoughtfully at the anonymous message she’d received earlier about her husband cheating. Meanwhile, Hyo-joo texts her boyfriend, saying that they’re clear to continue their affair.
At the Ahn Estate, Bok-ja receives a message from her accomplice that all is ready while Ah-jin busily directs the staff to prepare for Chairman Ahn’s birthday. Bok-ja goes to help the chairman get ready and tries to make small talk, even offering to dye his hair like she’d promised, but he adamantly refuses until she says that she has something to tell him.
As she combs the dye through the chairman’s hair, Bok-ja tells him about her daughter, who she raised alone. She explains that the reason she ended up in jail was because her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, and she didn’t have any other way to pay for her bone-marrow transplant.
The chairman softens and asks why she didn’t tell him before, but Bok-ja says she couldn’t just bring something like that up. She insists on paying him back since he worked hard for that money, and because she believes in human decency. He tells her that there’s no need, but Bok-ja tearfully insists, causing the chairman to sigh.
Before Bok-ja sends the smartly dressed chairman off for his party, she strokes his cheek and says that he looks fit to be married. With that, she leaves to change her clothes.
Following a violin recital from Ji-hoo and a karaoke number from Ah-jin in front of all the gathered party guests, a well-dressed Bok-ja finally emerges from the house with a silver platter, which she presents to the chairman. The women are appalled when Bok-ja reveals the meal to be pig skin (considered to be poor, common food), but Ah-jin is the one to coldly tell Bok-ja to stay right where she is, despite Jae-suk and Chairman Ahn’s insistence that she eat with them.
Bok-ja sits at the table and receives death glares from Joo-mi, but everything is cut short when Bok-ja’s accomplice surreptitiously releases the cat nearby. Cat darts under the family’s table and Joo-mi goes ballistic, knocking into a tent pole in the process. When the structure starts to wobble, everyone but Bok-ja scatters as she shields the chairman from the tent that comes crashing down on top of them.
Afterward, the chairman’s children discuss what happened and berate Joo-mi for overreacting. Despite Bok-ja’s act of heroism, Ah-jin says that she still needs to go, but the chairman enters and announces that Bok-ja will stay.
Ah-jin attempts to argue, but the chairman shakily rises to his feet and says that in addition to sacrificing herself for him, Bok-ja is responsible for getting him to stand. He manages to stumble forward a few steps, adding that he can now walk as well.
Meanwhile, Bok-ja wakes up in the hospital, her face bloodied and bruised. She smiles victoriously, and we flash back to see that she and her accomplice had orchestrated the entire tent incident.
As they prepare for bed that evening, Jae-suk tells Ah-jin that they shouldn’t care about Bok-ja’s criminal record. He points out that she’s served her time, and besides, even he has friends with fraud convictions. Ah-jin is appalled, but he argues that everyone deserve a fair chance, reminding her that Bok-ja even got the chairman to stand.
At the hospital, Bok-ja rips out her IVs, dresses, and escapes into the stormy night.
And back at the Ahn Estate, a completely sloshed Joo-mi gets an idea and stumbles up to Bok-ja’s room, where she stuffs Cat into a box and goes out into the storm.
Soon after, Bok-ja returns and discovers Cat missing. She runs into a soaked Joo-mi, who isn’t at all surprised to see her, but Bok-ja ignores her taunting and just continues to call for Cat. “It’s not in the house,” Joo-mi says with a smile. “I threw it away.”
Bok-ja screams and runs outside, calling for Cat. Thankfully, she finds Cat soaked, but safe, and she holds it tight as she re-enters the house with a crazed look on her face. Bursting into Joo-mi’s son’s room, Bok-ja leans down toward the frightened young man and grits, “You. Get out.”
Woon-kyu shows up dripping wet on Ah-jin’s doorstep, and next thing we know, she’s storming into the Ahn Estate. She finds Bok-ja cuddling Cat in a towel and demands to know what Bok-ja thinks she’s doing. In a faraway voice, Bok-ja only acknowledges that Ah-jin has arrived, which is when Joo-mi comes out and sees her bedraggled son.
Ah-jin isn’t in the mood for dealing with Bok-ja’s games and tells her to explain herself. Bok-ja looks up blankly, asking what she did wrong before adding, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. She threw out my cat, so I threw him out.”
Joo-mi flies at Bok-ja in a blind rage, but immediately reels back when Bok-ja charges at her. Ah-jin screams at Bok-ja to stop, and in a voiceover, Bok-ja wonders: “If I had listened to her then, if I had stopped there, would I have stayed alive?”
In the present, Ah-jin authoritatively yells at Bok-ja to stop what she’s doing.
Well, that was intense! I think the lesson to be learned here is: Don’t mess with a woman’s cat. I have so many questions for this show, I don’t even know where to start. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and four episodes later, that feeling hasn’t changed. The first few minutes of Episode 1 introduced a murder most foul, and yet as we progress, I find that I’m not even concerned with the whodunit, but rather, what brought Bok-ja here in the first place.
I have a hard time believing that she’s motivated solely by greed and wants nothing more than to carry around a fancy bag. In this episode, we found out that her jail sentence wasn’t actually hers, but her accomplice’s. What’s between them for her to be willing to take the fall and actually serve time for him? And was the daughter she mentioned to the chairman a kernel of actual truth, or just another method to manipulate her way out of a tight spot? Does she really have a child, and if so, where is she? Did she die because her mother couldn’t afford the treatment? And if that’s the case, is it possible that this is less of a greed scheme and more of a revenge plot? Each episode only seems to bring about more questions, and I love it.
Despite my growing curiosity, I’m still unsure as to whether or not I actually like this show. Almost every character possesses some pretty unlikable qualities, even our resident “nice girl” Ah-jin. And while I appreciate that no character is black and white, I do find it confusing at times to have a shameless cheater like Jae-suk, who’s such a bumbling oaf that I don’t even feel mad at him despite the fact that what he’s doing to his family is pretty despicable. The only argument he has is that literally every guy around him is doing the exact same thing, which by no means excuses his behavior, but that puts his situation in a context where you can see how he would think that what he’s doing isn’t all that wrong.
The whole thing still feels a bit messy to me, but Bok-ja’s story intrigues me. I hope we get more depth out of Ah-jin as well. The moment when she went home and spoke about her dad was really nice and showed that there is a person under her perfect housewife image. I’m definitely looking forward to this showdown between Ah-jin and Bok-ja. Let the battle commence!
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