Woman of Dignity: Episode 7
Ah-jin uncovers some truth amidst all the lies, and she’s not about to take what’s happening to her family lying down. Though she’s adept at forming her own plans, Bok-ja continues to maneuver just out of her reach, even if her margin may not be as wide as before. And when it comes to her husband, Ah-jin must decide whether anger or forgiveness will best soothe her soul in the end.
Episode 7: “Triangle”
We rewind back to the morning where Ah-jin trailed Jae-suk’s taxi on his way to Sung-hee’s house. At first, she wavers, but eventually she follows and watches as Jae-suk arrives and giddily runs inside. Ah-jin can only grip the steering wheel for support, gasping as tears fill her eyes.
At home, Ah-jin receives a call from her mother, who’s following up on Ah-jin’s unexpected visit (when she listened to her father’s records in the last episode). Her mother expresses concern for her daughter, but Ah-jin swears that she just missed her mother’s food.
The person Ah-jin is ready to talk to is personal assistant Jin-hee, and she asks Jin-hee how she found out that her husband was cheating.
Jin-hee confesses that she saw Jae-suk and Sung-hee touching in a way only couples would after Jae-suk insisted on picking Ji-hoo up from her art lessons.
Although Jin-hee seems unsure at first, she gathers her courage and finally declares, “There’s nothing more to check. He’s cheating on you with that woman!” Upon hearing this confirmation, a single tear rolls down Ah-jin’s cheek.
Meanwhile, at the Ahn Estate, daughter-in-law Joo-mi and daughter Jae-hee discuss Chairman Ahn’s marriage announcement. Joo-mi plans to leave if the wedding actually happens, but Jae-hee warns that while Chairman Ahn might be fine letting Joo-mi go, he’d never let her take her son Woon-kyu with her.
Jae-hee declares that they need to be united together to fight Bok-ja in earnest, adding that they can all return to fighting amongst themselves after they defeat her. Ha.
The mood changes when Joo-mi confesses that she wants to kill Bok-ja. Jae-hee looks askance at her, But Joo-mi doubles down and says that she truly does want to kill her. Jae-hee thinks that bringing Joo-mi’s husband back would help. Joo-mi is skeptical, but Jae-hee reveals that she already called him, and he’s on his way.
Still in her hometown, Bok-ja stops by a familiar building and looks up, a memory resurfacing.
In flashback, we see the pigtailed girl from Bok-ja’s photograph and her adoptive mother (who is not Bok-ja) getting scolded by the mother of the little girl who’d offered Pigtails her doll. “Why did you adopt someone like her?” the snooty mother asks, while Pigtails cries and looks up at the doll in the other girl’s hands.
As she withdraws from her memories and returns to the present, a tear slips down Bok-ja’s cheek before she collects herself and walks away, smiling deviously.
Back at the Ahn Estate, Chairman Ahn practices his walk down the aisle, replete with the wedding march playing in the background. He just seems delighted to be walking again, and doubly so as he imagines walking arm in arm with Bok-ja.
Ah-jin has returned to the park bench where she had her conversation with Jin-hee, alone this time. She recalls the men’s clothing she previously dismissed in Sung-hee’s apartment as all the clues start falling into place. Disturbed at first, her face then settles into hard resolve as she stands.
Ah-jin returns to the estate and walks in on Chairman Ahn’s wedding practice session. Agreeing to keep the wedding simple, Ah-jin promises to plan the ceremony, requesting in return that Chairman Ahn give the other family members time to adjust.
Happy to hear that the opposition is softening, the chairman agrees and reiterates that Ah-jin is the only one he trusts in this family, earning a relieved look from Ah-jin.
Now seated with Joo-mi and Jae-hee in the living room, Ah-jin convinces them to accept the marriage for now. She adds that the chairman is determined to do it no matter what, and opposing it will just put them all in a bad position.
Jae-hee agrees that it’s better to still have his ear than be totally cut out, but Joo-mi sighs loudly in exasperation. Ah-jin insists that their first priority is making sure that Bok-ja doesn’t have too much control over his decisions, adding that she has a plan.
Ah-jin’s next stop is meditation partner and lawyer Ki-ho’s office. Over tea, Ki-ho senses that something is bothering Ah-jin and asks her about it. She denies it of course, but he persists. She asks if he isn’t more curious about why she asked to meet, but he says that she already told him over the phone that she’s concerned about her father-in-law’s marriage to Bok-ja. “Partner, is that why you’re not feeling well?” Ki-ho asks.
Ah-jin repeats the word “partner” back to him, saying that she likes it. “What if my partner does something bad? Who should I tell?” Ah-jin asks. Ki-ho’s expression suggests that he knows that she doesn’t mean him, but Ah-jin quickly shifts and says that she’s referring to her father-in-law, and that she’s got something to discuss with Ki-ho.
Meanwhile, Ah-jin’s friend Ki-ok becomes distracted with thoughts of the cheating accusations against her husband, and she ends up too frazzled to do much of anything.
Returning to the Ahn Estate, Bok-ja finds the chairman in his bedroom and caresses his cheek, her eyes tender. She confesses that her dream was to be able to live with the man she loved, and she starts to cry as she admits that she never thought she could be this happy.
Laughing good-naturedly, the chairman tells her that Ah-jin was wondering what kind of gift to get her. Bok-ja claims that she doesn’t want a gift, but the chairman tells her to just go along with Ah-jin’s choice.
After calling Ji-hoo to let her know that she’ll be home late, Ah-jin then turns to Ki-ho to ask if he’ll be her drinking buddy for the night. He glances down to look at his watch as though reluctant before immediately agreeing, a smile just barely hinting at the corners of his mouth.
Ki-ok takes her phone to a service provider, and they identify the source of the anonymous texts as a computer, rather than a phone. They can’t trace a computer, the technician says, but they can trace the blocked number of the call she received if she has evidence of harassment.
Ki-ok recorded the last call and plays it for the technician, and he agrees to make it so that if the person calls again, their number won’t show up as blocked and will thus be traceable.
Meanwhile, Ah-jin and Ki-ho drink makgulli together at a restaurant, and Ki-ho offers to be the person she can talk to when her partner does something wrong. “Is that partner your husband?” Ki-ho asks innocently enough.
Ah-jin denies it and hollowly lists Jae-suk’s supposed good traits, but she keeps her eyes lowered the whole time. Ki-ho says that everyone makes mistakes, but some people do things knowing that they will hurt others.
Ah-jin says that she would rather blame herself than believe that her husband would do this without a reason. Ki-ho asks if she would want to know that reason, but Ah-jin just shakes her head and drinks deeply.
Ki-ho takes her cup from her hand, finishes off the last remaining bit, and then downs his own cup. It’s like he’s playing the white knight for her, and Ah-jin smiles and admonishes him for taking all the alcohol for himself.
Ki-ok’s husband returns from his “business trip” to Busan and immediately flops down on their bed, citing exhaustion. Ki-ok stares down at him skeptically, but uses the duration of his nap to try and guess her husband’s phone password and search for clues. She guesses wrong too many times, however, and the phone locks her out.
Meanwhile, Hyo-joo scrolls through her blog, smiling proudly at the photos she’s curated. Then, she watches the video of her husband and his mistress that her spy recorded for her, and she scoffs at the woman calling her husband “Daddy.”
Hyo-joo’s husband Moon-tak receives a visit from his own spy (Hyo-joo’s blackmailer) at the hotel, who reports that Hyo-joo is alone today, adding that she only seems to see her lover when her husband isn’t in the hotel.
Moon-tak’s frustration grows the more that the spy shares, and when the kid offers to install a camera in the hotel room to record Hyo-joo, Moon-tak rushes around his desk and kicks him violently.
He kicks him over and over again, telling him to just do what he’s told to do, nothing more. The last thing Moon-tak wants, he says, is to actually witness his wife’s infidelity.
That night, Bok-ja lies down next to a sleeping Chairman Ahn, and though no one is there to see her, she snuggles close to him contentedly.
Ah-jin arrives home, wandering in tipsily, and then we cut to Jae-suk briefly, who’s snoring away in bed. Ah-jin remains outside and sits on the patio, agonizing over what to do.
Back to Jae-suk, who still slumbers while a hooded figure darts into his bedroom. The hooded figure towers over his sleeping body and raises a weapon…
It’s Ah-jin, holding a dagger-like pen, and she trembles with rage as she stabs downward several times, with the final jab piercing the pillow next to Jae-suk’s head.
Jae-suk jolts awake from his nightmare to find that it’s already morning, while outside, a hooded Ah-jin stabs the air out of Jae-suk’s bike tire, giving him a flat for the day. Ha.
Dressed in his biking clothes, Jae-suk is miffed to find that Ah-jin hasn’t prepared him any breakfast, but Ah-jin just gives him a look and coldly tells him to have a good time cycling. Jae-suk remains chipper, but just as he’s mounts the flat-tired bike, his foot slips…
Cut to: Jae-suk and Ah-jin in the doctor’s office, where her husband is shown an x-ray of his foot and informed that he’s pulled a tendon and will need a cast. “How sad. I guess no morning exercise for a while,” Ah-jin deadpans.
While Ah-jin and Bok-ja go shopping for Bok-ja’s bridal hanbok (with Ah-jin taking almost total control), Jae-suk tells Sung-hee over the phone that he won’t be able to come over for a while without his cycling excuse. But he has to hang up in a hurry when his long-suffering employee comes in.
Jae-suk’s embarrassed to hear that even though they’re trying to keep the wedding quiet, the board members already know about it. Jae-suk grumbles about his father’s behavior, but at his employee’s knowing glance, he holds up his bandaged foot in a plea for sympathy.
Ji-hoo notes Jin-hee’s downcast expression in the car and advises that she think about people worse off than her to make her feel better. (Ah Ji-hoo, our dark little realist.) Taking a moment to think, Jin-hee reminds Ji-hoo to be good to her mother, saying that she really likes Ah-jin. Aw.
Ah-jin takes a reluctant Bok-ja furniture shopping for newlywed furniture, causing Bok-ja to smirk and cover her mouth at Ah-jin’s apparent concern. As they look at a wardrobe, Ah-jin inquires about Bok-ja’s wedding guests, and Bok-ja shares that her parents are both dead, adding that she doesn’t know any other relatives.
When the two take a break in a coffee shop after, Bok-ja broaches the topic of how she should address Ah-jin once she’s married to the chairman. It’s a tough subject, and Bok-ja offers to not force new titles. At this, Ah-jin says she’ll adjust over time and promises that their differences are in the past.
Bok-ja asks about Ah-jin’s parents attending the wedding, and Ah-jin shares that only her mother will be attending, since her father passed away. Bok-ja commiserates with her on the loneliness of growing up without parents, while Ah-jin adds that she was grateful to have her mother.
Bok-ja admits that she wants to become a mother herself, and Ah-jin’s eyes widen as she stutters out her concern regarding the chairman’s age. But Bok-ja blows right past it, citing that Confucius’s father was eighty years old when Confucius was born, ha.
Ah-jin calls Ki-ho and thanks him for being a great (drinking) partner last night. Ki-ho mentions that he’s assembled the documents that Ah-jin requested, and since he needs a signature, Ah-jin asks if he can bring the documents to the estate in the morning.
Ki-ho pauses before he hangs up and earnestly says, “Stay strong. It’ll all pass.” After she hangs up, Ah-jin ravenously eats the kimchi stew and rice her maid left behind. Time to fuel up for the fight ahead.
Jin-hee and Ji-hoo arrive home and catch Ah-jin’s feeding frenzy. Ah-jin greets her daughter cheerfully, but Ji-hoo’s face shows that she’s already registered her mother’s mood.
Jae-suk’s driving home, pop music blaring and head bouncing, when he receives a text from Ji-hoo ordering him to pick up macaroons for Ah-jin. Jae-suk, as usual, can’t see anything beyond himself, and complains about how he’s the one with a hurt ankle.
Back at home, Ah-jin sits Ji-hoo down and asks if it would be okay to cancel her art lessons, and Ji-hoo solemnly nods in agreement. Ah-jin is surprised that she agreed so easily, but Ji-hoo quietly says that her mother must have her reasons.
Ji-hoo reassures her mother that this isn’t her fault, but she also says that they need to keep loving Jae-suk. They embrace, with Ji-hoo telling her mother how much she loves her while Ah-jin considers Ji-hoo’s stance. That’s when Jae-suk interrupts their moment, sans macaroons, and Ah-jin sends Ji-hoo to bed.
Jae-suk asks if anything is wrong, and Ah-jin sarcastically declares that no, she’s perfectly happy. Jae-suk just laughs, thinking that she’s upset about his father’s marriage plans, which he tells her to just accept.
Ah-jin cuts him off, telling him to plan to have lunch with her tomorrow. She calls Sung-hee next to let her know that Ji-hoo will no longer be taking art lessons, and when Sung-hee asks why, Ah-jin makes the same lunch date with Sung-hee for tomorrow. Uh oh.
Jae-suk keeps complaining about his ankle, and Ah-jin goads him about how sad he must be to be unable to go cycling. Jae-suk just lies merrily that he was just getting good at it, and Ah-jin sends him a scathing look.
But Jae-suk remains completely oblivious and mentions that he heard from Jae-hee that his older brother is headed home. Ah-jin only gives cursory answers to his prompts before leaving the room, done listening to him.
Once alone, Jae-suk whips out his phone and texts Sung-hee. He says that they’ll find another way to see one another, and Sung-hee suggests that they switch to nights.
We finally check in on Kyung-hee and her badly beaten husband as he wakes to find her at his bedside. When he asks who attacked him, Kyung-hee indifferently asks why he’d think she’d know that.
She leaves only after her husband waves off her attempt to call in a detective, clearly not wanting to get the police involved.
The next morning, Ah-jin introduces Joo-mi and Jae-hee to Ki-ho. Once the entire family (minus Jae-suk) is gathered, Ki-ho hands copies of a prenuptial agreement to Bok-ja and the chairman.
Bok-ja realizes that she is back on the defensive as Jae-hee picks up a copy of the agreement and begins to read the terms aloud. If signed, Bok-ja is not entitled to any financial or material property of the Ahn Estate, and any attempt to gain access would void her inheritance.
Ah-jin looks on calmly and turns Bok-ja’s own words against her: If Bok-ja cares only about protecting the chairman, then this agreement shouldn’t be a problem.
Everyone looks expectantly at Bok-ja, even Chairman Ahn, and though she pauses for a moment to collect herself, she readily agrees and signs. The chairman smiles, while everyone else in the room looks stunned.
Onto the next scheduled confrontation: Sung-hee arrives at the restaurant for lunch, wearing the dress Ah-jin designed for her, and is escorted to a private room. Jae-suk is next to arrive, aided by his loyal employee, and Jae-suk and Sung-hee are startled to see one another.
Jae-suk’s employee gasps in shock as Ah-jin saunters in to join the group. Ah-jin just smirks at Jae-suk and Sung-hee as they tremble together, thoroughly caught.
Ah-jin starts with Sung-hee: “I’ve heard you’ve been meeting my husband for personal reasons.” Jae-suk tries to suggest that there’s been a misunderstanding, but Sung-hee answers in the affirmative.
Ah-jin asks what they do when he visits, and though Jae-suk tries to deny everything, Sung-hee responds succinctly that they’re sleeping together.
Sung-hee declares that she and Jae-suk are in love, but Jae-suk yells at her for talking to Ah-jin so bluntly. Ah-jin asks if she’s planning to continue to see him, and Sung-hee confidently says yes at the same time that Jae-suk wags his head no.
Ah-jin officially gives Jae-suk an ultimatum: He can choose his wife and daughter, or his mistress. Jae-suk looks from Ah-jin to Sung-hee and back again, then agrees to stop seeing Sung-hee. Ah-jin promises that if he doesn’t end it now, she’ll kill him.
Ah-jin callously slides a check across to Sung-hee as payment for Ji-hoo’s lessons. Staring at the pen she used to sign the check, Ah-jin explains that she received it as a gift in college, and while she likes it, it’s hard to find ink for it. She associates fond memories with it though, and she compares her relationship with Jae-suk to it—it’s old and useless, but she just can’t let it go.
Looking Sung-hee dead in the eye now, Ah-jin says that she won’t stand for someone to take Jae-suk away from her. “Don’t take what belongs to others,” Ah-jin warns, her tone condescending. “What can someone like you possibly do to me?” Ah-jin asks next. “What, you’re younger? Prettier? It’s obvious you went through many surgeries for that.”
When Sung-hee dumbly claims that she only had her eyes done, Ah-jin tells her to shut up, calling her trash. Sung-hee accuses her of being too harsh, and Ah-jin warns that Sung-hee will get more than harsh words from her if she finds out that she’s still seeing her husband.
Jae-suk gets up to follow Ah-jin out, but Ah-jin tells them to stay and have a drink together to say goodbye—she has other things to tend to.
Outside the room, Ah-jin’s tough composure gives way to gasps of relief for just a moment, and then the mask of determination returns as she marches away.
Back in the restaurant, Sung-hee turns that anger on Jae-suk, throwing napkins and water at him before finally sinking her teeth into his hand.
Ji-hoo asks Jin-hee if they can stop by Sung-hee’s on their way home to pick up art supplies she left behind. Jin-hee offers to take care of it later, but Ji-hoo smiles sweetly and says that she wants to say goodbye to her teacher.
Sung-hee is still dazed from the day’s confrontation when they arrive, but Ji-hoo is in and out of her apartment quickly. Ji-hoo grins at Jin-hee, saying she left her last painting for Sung-hee as a gift.
Inside, Sung-hee opens up the notepad to find Ji-hoo’s final farewell: a drawing of a thumbs down. Sung-hee flings it to the floor in disgust.
Jae-hee picks up her gruff older brother AHN JAE-GU (Han Jae-young) at the airport. He’s disdainful of her pending divorce and his father’s upcoming marriage, but Jae-hee brushes it off and reminds him that he should be eager to see his son.
They encounter Joo-mi as soon as they arrive back at the estate, but neither Joo-mi nor Jae-gu will look at the other.
Jae-gu scopes out his son’s room and finds a framed photo of the three of them as a family, all smiles. Jae-gu softens as he studies their faces, but his reminiscing is interrupted by his father’s voice, as Chairman Ahn demands to know who allowed Jae-gu in the house.
When Chairman Ahn confronts Jae-gu over his impromptu visit, Jae-gu promises to leave with his wife and son immediately after the wedding, but he demands his share of the company stock first, which only ruffles the chairman further.
Jae-gu blithely says that he’d get it after his father were to die anyway, and Bok-ja asks how he can speak so cruelly to his father after being gone for so long. Jae-gu yells at her to butt out, and Bok-ja’s head snaps to attention, her tone changing.
She stands her ground, baring her teeth and defending her place as his father’s soon-to-be wife. She lets Jae-gu know in no uncertain terms that she won’t let him threaten the chairman’s health or the family.
On the day of the wedding, Jae-suk hobbles to join his family at their table in the courtyard. His father comments on his miserable face and tells him he looks like a “dirty cloth,” and Jae-suk responds that things can go wrong in a diligent man’s life, somehow managing to make it sound like he’s the one who’s been wronged.
Jae-gu shows up dressed casually and slouches in his chair, and Jae-suk limps over to admonish him, the two bickering back and forth.
The chairman and Bok-ja cut the wedding cake while the small crowd applauds. In line for food afterward, Ah-jin briefly considers confronting Joo-mi with the information about the fallen tent, but then changes her mind.
After the ceremony, Ji-hoo asks her mother if she has to call Bok-ja “Grandma” now, and while Ah-jin acknowledges that it won’t be easy, she says that it would only be proper.
Jae-suk joins them in the bedroom, but both Ah-jin and Ji-hoo storm out together. Jae-suk mutters that they should appreciate him more since he chose them over his mistress. Ugh, Jae-suk.
After Chairman Ahn and Bok-ja leave for their honeymoon, we cut to Ah-jin in her meditation class. Asked to imagine someone that she can’t forgive, Ah-jin closes her eyes, and the meditation leader guides them to imagine that person in pain, and to examine whether that person’s pain makes them feel any better.
Tears flow down Ah-jin’s face as the meditation leader tells them to imagine hugging that person instead. As Ah-jin sniffles, Ki-ho opens his eyes and watches her, concerned.
Chairman Ahn and Bok-ja have returned from their honeymoon, and Ah-jin greets them outside, visibly startled by Bok-ja’s transformation: her clothing is now sleekly tailored, her hair chicly styled, looking every bit the perfect couth wife for the chairman.
Inside the china room, Bok-ja asserts her authority over the household and makes it clear to Mrs. Cho that her decisions now override anyone else’s within the house.
As if on cue, Ah-jin approaches Bok-ja and the maid in the hallway and asks Mrs. Cho to clean out a bedroom upstairs for Jae-gu.
Bok-ja suggests getting another person to help around the house, and Ah-jin agrees. In fact, Bok-ja reveals that she has someone already picked out, and right at that moment, the doorbell rings. When Bok-ja goes to answer the door, Mrs. Cho asks a silently simmering Ah-jin whose orders she should follow.
Bok-ja’s hometown friend is here for the position, and Bok-ja introduces her to Ah-jin. Ah-jin mutters that Bok-ja should have consulted her, but Bok-ja smiles it off, referring to Ah-jin as “Ji-hoo’s Mom.” So much for no forced title changes.
When Ah-jin asks for the new hire’s resume, Bok-ja deflects the question and leans in, letting Ah-jin know that from now on, she’ll be making the decisions. But Ah-jin confidently asks if Bok-ja knows all the ins and outs of the estate like she does from years of experience, offering to help her get acquainted with the work.
With challenges made by both women, Ah-jin walks away while Bok-ja smiles behind her back.
This is the first episode so far where I felt like a strong story thread was woven throughout, rather than bits and pieces torn from so many different lives. By focusing mostly on Ah-jin’s discovery of Jae-suk’s infidelity, things finally fell into place, and we were able to follow Ah-jin through several stages of grief. It’s been a thin spread across the many subplots lately, and though I had been struggling to care about anyone, I thought this focused storytelling helped the show immensely, and I finally found myself rooting for Ah-jin.
This also meant losing some fondness for Jae-suk. His bumbling has provided much needed comic relief in previous weeks, but I just can’t ignore his willful insistence that he is somehow the victim in all this. (Or maybe he just actually believes himself.)
While Ah-jin was front and center, Bok-ja’s plotting was pretty quiet. But I think this benefited her overall arc as well. With the wedding in sight, Bok-ja knew this was not the time to rock the boat. I also think she wanted some time to relax and enjoy the rewards of her hard work. When she snuggled the sleeping Chairman Ahn, I couldn’t tell whether she genuinely liked him or if she saw him as a cuddly piggy bank, but I totally believed that she was happy.
I do admit to being frustrated with how little we know about Bok-ja’s past so far. At this point in the show, I need at least a few clues and red herrings, but with so little to work with, I’ve lost interest in Bok-ja’s backstory. That doesn’t mean that I can’t still enjoy her deceptions and maneuvering, but I’m concerned that I might find that her reasons aren’t all that interesting.
Motherhood was a theme running through Ah-jin and Bok-ja’s stories this episode. For Ah-jin, it’s her love for her daughter that provoked her to demand that Jae-suk make a choice, as well as her daughter’s love for them both that prevented her from doing far worse to him.
Bok-ja’s idea of motherhood is aspirational for now, since none of the current Ahn family members are eager to call her anything close to “Mother.” The shifting familial titles, and the power that goes with them, is of great concern to everyone in this episode, and it echoes back to Episode 1, when Bok-ja questioned what it meant to assume the title of someone’s mother and not be seen as an individual anymore. Bok-ja’s desire to have a child makes me wonder if she hopes that being someone’s mother will help permanently separate her from her past.
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