A Couple’s World: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
What do you do when your perfect life turns out to be more illusion than reality? Our protagonist faces difficult choices and a seemingly insignificant gesture turns out to be the catalyst for a life-changing revelation.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
We start off with a view into the life of JI SUN-WOO (Kim Hee-ae), which seems pretty perfect. She has a successful medical career, a sweet son, and a loving husband, LEE TAE-OH (Park Hae-joon). A director and CEO of a film production company, he’s pretty devoted to work, but that he’s equally devoted to his wife (or so it seems).
They’re the picture of domestic bliss, and the morning after a loving reunion, their interactions are cavity-inducingly sweet, but not in an artificial way. Sun-woo and Tae-oh genuinely seem to love each other and their son Joon-young.
Before Sun-woo heads off to work Tae-oh sweetly wraps his scarf around her neck and sends her off with a kiss.
During her commute, she calls up friend and neighbor, GO YE-RIM (Park Sun-young) who gushes about her husband SOHN JE-HYUK (Kim Young-min) and how they were like newlyweds during their trip to Jeju. But as they chat, we see the couple at the airport and he can barely be bothered to give Ye-rim a second glance.
At work, Sun-woo gets ready to see her patients, but something catches her eye…she reaches her hand out and plucks a single strand of auburn hair off the scarf. After examining it in the sunlight, she throws it out, but it’s clearly affected her. She can’t seem to focus, and when one of her patients, UHM HYO-JUNG (Kim Sun-kyung), drops by to invite her to a solo exhibition of hers, she can’t stop herself from fixating on Hyo-jung’s auburn hair.
After work, she’s waiting outside Joon-young’s school and it’s a reverse Where’s Waldo situation–everywhere she looks, there are women with auburn hair. That includes Jang Mi-yeon, once Tae-oh’s assistant director and now current assistant. Mi-yeon explains that after her divorce, Tae-oh took her back on as his assistant since he knew she was raising her daughter alone.
While Sun-woo internally reels at the knowledge Tae-oh has had an assistant for over a year that he never mentioned, Mi-yeon trills that it must be wonderful having a devoted husband who always clocks off at 5 p.m. on the dot…except he rarely gets home before 7 p.m.
We cut to the clock showing 7:30 p.m. with no husband in sight. When he finally comes home, she takes the opportunity to ask him about Mi-yeon. He’s evasive and can’t seem to stop stuffing himself with galbi, but she susses out that Mi-yeon (and some other staffers) accompanied Tae-oh on his recent business trip. (Ack! Joon-young overheard their conversation.)
Sun-woo pops over to Ye-rim and Je-hyuk’s house for a quick visit and while there casually asks if something’s up with Tae-oh. Her friend very shiftily denies knowing anything and Je-hyuk’s arrival cuts the conversation short. With him home, we see more of his dynamic with Ye-rim and Sun-woo. It’s weird. There’s an undertone of unhappiness and negativity, and Je-hyuk can’t seem to stop complimenting Sun-woo and putting down his wife.
At work the next day, Sun-woo confides in friend and colleague SEOL MYUNG-SOOK (Chae Kook-hee) that she snooped but couldn’t find anything incriminating on Tae-oh’s phone. But why wasn’t his phone password-protected? It was as if he was hoping she’d go through his phone. Myung-sook comforts her saying it’s all a misunderstanding and Sun-woo should work less and sleep more.
Lost in her thoughts during an appointment once more, Sun-woo absent-mindedly scratches and rubs her neck–then realizes her patient, Ha Dong-shik has the same issue. He’s scratched his skin raw and due to his paranoia and hasn’t been eating much, which means he can’t take the medications he needs. He observes her for a beat and states that she has the same symptoms as him. She rushes off mid-appointment and Myung-sook watches her silently.
We see Sun-woo’s staking out hubby’s office and she parks outside a pub as she watches Tae-oh pick up a bouquet and a cake. A couple quarrels and she ignores them until the man slams his girlfriend down on the roof of her car. As the women’s eyes meet, Sun-woo recognizes the woman as a patient from the other day, MIN HYUN-SEO (Shim Eun-woo).
Faced with the choice to help Hyun-seo or chase Tae-oh, Sun-woo freezes for a moment–then drives off after Tae-oh. He leads her straight to…a nursing home. In the lobby, she sees the cake at the receptionists’ desk and she seems familiar with the facility. She heads straight to a private room, where we see Tae-oh holding hands with his mother, a beautiful bouquet on the table.
She retreats, saying she’ll grab a vase, and she looks somewhat chastened while Tae-oh’s face is much harder to read. He steps out into the hallway after her and thanks her for coming. She can barely look at him as he continues that he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to burden her, but he’s been coming by pretty much every day since his mom’s condition keeps growing worse.
She can’t maintain a poker face, and at her horrified expression, he asks what’s wrong. Sun-woo comes clean about her suspicions and actions, and he’s surprisingly gracious. Tae-oh tells her not to have such silly concerns and wraps her up in a hug. But that fragile peace is shattered as soon as she reaches the nurses’ station. The nurse says how nice it is that Tae-oh’s managed to visit, it’s been months since he was last here after all.
Tae-oh and Sun-woo end up attending Uhm Hyo-jung’s exhibition together and we learn Sun-woo’s bankrolled his work so far. Meeting Hyo-jung’s wealthy husband, Chairman YEO BYEONG-KYU (Lee Kyung-young), is Tae-oh’s main reason for attending the party since Chairman Yeo’s wealth and connections could mean a big opportunity for Tae-oh.
Unfortunately, he gets the cold shoulder from the chairman until Sun-woo steps in to say hello. Hyo-jung is thrilled to see her, and Chairman Yeo is much warmer once he realizes to whom Tae-oh is attached. Knowing how important it is to him, Sun-woo invites Hyo-jung and the chairman to Tae-oh’s upcoming birthday party.
It’s a small world, and Hyun-seo just so happens to be working as a server at the party. In a quiet moment away from the revelers, Sun-woo asks if she’s okay and apologizes for not helping. They have a quiet moment of commiseration and Hyun-seo sighs that it’s disappointing to hear their lives are similar despite Sun-woo being a successful career woman.
The next day, Sun-woo offers a deal: the prescription for anti-anxiety pills Hyun-seo had wanted (after Hyun-seo swears up and down the medication is not for dieting or self-harm) in return for playing amateur P.I. Hyun-seo soon spots Tae-oh with his arms around another woman. She doesn’t manage to get a shot of them together, but she sends over a photo of the other woman’s license plate.
When Sun-woo and Hyun-seo meet up once again, Sun-woo hands over the prescription and Hyun-seo tips her off about Tae-oh’s car trunk possibly being a hiding spot for something.
At Tae-oh’s birthday party, Sun-woo makes an excuse for Tae-oh’s car keys and searches the trunk, but turns up nothing. She’s about to give up when it occurs to her to lift up the trunk’s liner–and there’s a backpack full of undies, deodorant, condoms. It gets worse. There’s a second phone, and the background image is of a young woman–Chairman Yeo’s daughter, YEO DA-KYUNG (Han So-hee). Then it gets worse. The phone is full of lovey-dovey shots of Tae-oh and Da-kyung…and a group shot of them with Ye-rim, Je-hyuk, and Mi-yeon. It gets even worse! There is a whole string of texts from Myung-sook tipping Tae-oh off about Sun-woo’s suspicions and movements.
She tamps down her shock and hurt and puts everything back where she found it. After a quick fantasy stabbing montage, it’s back to reality: Tae-oh’s birthday bash.
Tae-oh toasts his old schoolmates for supporting him in his business endeavors, with a special shout out to Je-hyuk. He also gives a sweet speech thanking Sun-woo for embracing his anxious soul. Tae-oh says meeting her was the best thing to happen to him. He closes by telling her he loves her, more than he can say with words.
There’s a long, awkward silence as Sun-woo has no reaction, so Je-hyuk prods her to reply. She strides over and after a pause, she gives him a long kiss. She whispers it’s his day and he should enjoy it to the fullest while he can.
Man, Tae-oh and Da-kyung are bold, they covertly hold hands for a minute, and Sun-woo watches in silence. Tae-oh nervously clocks Sun-woo walk over and engage with Da-kyung, while an increasingly tipsy Je-hyuk annoys him by praising Sun-woo to high heavens while putting Tae-oh down.
children men get into a bust-up when Je-hyuk crosses the line by asking Tae-oh if Sun-woo makes sure to take care of him day and night (insert eyebrow waggle).
Tae-oh ends up with a cut up hand, and as Sun-woo tends to him he casually-suspiciously asks who Sun-woo was talking to earlier, and pretends to have no idea who Da-kyung is. As Sun-woo stands ready to go, she flinches at his touch when he says he meant every word earlier, he loves her. She can’t stand it anymore and she nearly falls over before leaving the party.
At home alone, Sun-woo cries her heart out and drinks while she packs a suitcase and rips photos off the wall and fridge. Back at the party, Da-kyung is furious with Tae-oh about his declaration of love for Sun-woo. He chases after explaining that it meant nothing, that marriage is just a mask. He declares his love for Da-kyung and they kiss passionately and some creeper films them kissing. Da-kyung breaks off their kiss with an ultimatum: Leave Sun-woo tomorrow.
Itchy, paranoid patient Dong-shik peek out at Tae-oh from behind a building, and Myung-sook spots Joon-young walking home. She drives him back but looks nervous at the state of the house and how Sun-woo’s been drinking by herself.
Sun-woo offers Myung-sook a drink and as they drink, Myung-sook starts gossiping about the fight between Tae-oh and Je-hyuk. It’s clear she enjoys the chaos and other people’s misery. Sun-woo listens and then asks quietly if Myung-sook is enjoying herself. As Myung-sook backtracks, Sun-woo confronts her with everything she knows. Myung-sook claims Tae-oh spilled the news one day by accident over drinks, and that she only kept quiet because he swore he was going to break it off with Da-kyung. Sun-woo screams at her to act properly from now on.
The next morning, everything seems normal and all photos are back in their rightful places. Tae-oh asks for his customary morning hug; though she pauses, she leans into him before going to work. A text pops up on Tae-oh’s phone that reads, “Keep your promise,” which he deletes before heading off to baseball camp with Joon-young. While they enjoy some father-son bonding, there’s trouble brewing at home.
At the hospital, Da-kyung’s made an appointment to see Sun-woo (to Myung-sook’s shock and horror). The appointment is highly charged and as Sun-woo asks about Da-kyung’s sexual partners, Da-kyung says she’s seeing a married man. Sun-woo keeps her composure until Da-kyung leaves to give a urine sample.
The urine test brings some unhappy news: a positive pregnancy test. Surprisingly, they both look shocked and Da-kyung ends up rushing to Myung-sook, begging for secrecy and an abortion. Despite abortion being illegal in Korea, Myung-sook’s ready to agree to the procedure but Sun-woo stops her, saying it goes against the hospital’s rules. Interestingly, we see Da-kyung back at her apartment and she throws out a positive pregnancy test before stalking upstairs (so what was that surprise at Sun-woo’s office about?)
Sun-woo finds herself at Hyun-seo’s bar and grows concerned when she hears Hyun-seo hasn’t been to work recently. She’s right to be concerned, Hyun-seo’s boyfriend In-kyu is on the rampage again. Hyun-seo’s attempt to flee fails, and he throws her into their apartment. The door nearly swings shut but a hand stops it short–it’s Sun-woo.
She takes in the scene and tells Hyun-seo to get up, grab any essentials and come with her. When In-kyu tries to stop Hyun-seo again, Sun-woo uses the steel door as a weapon, slamming it on his outstretched arm. He grabs Sun-woo by the collar but she stays calm, telling him she could end his life with a medical diagnosis and by using her social status. As that sinks in, she pushes him off her.
In the quiet of Sun-woo’s office, she stitches up Hyun-seo. Hyun-seo explains that her boyfriend isn’t a bad guy, he just takes his anger out on her sometimes but she can make him into a good person. Sun-woo gently tells her people don’t change easily and that she could end up dying next time he goes into a rage. Crying, Hyun-seo says it’s because she loves him. Their next stop is a hotel, where Sun-woo’s grabbed a room for Hyun-seo. She tells her to sit tight for a few days and not to even think about going back to In-kyu. Sun-woo goes to leave, and Hyun-seo asks what she’ll do about Tae-oh, but we don’t hear her answer.
Back from baseball camp, dinner time seems peaceful and normal. Disturbingly, our itchy Dong-shik is watching footage from Tae-oh’s birthday party, of Tae-oh and Da-kyung kissing.
The next morning at breakfast, Sun-woo confronts the matter head-on. She asks about the other woman and tells him she can forgive an affair, it was probably a moment of fleeting passion, but she can’t forgive a lie. For a second it looks like he’ll do the decent thing and come clean, but no, he responds in disbelief and anger–asking if this is how little trust they have between them. He swears she’s the only woman in his life. Then he tells her she’s overworked and stressed, making her laugh humorlessly.
She collapses and he says she’s the only woman for him. She repeats his words and feigns acceptance while cursing him mentally. With that bomb fully exploded, she texts Myung-sook to spill the beans to Tae-ho about Da-kyung’s pregnancy. At the same time Tae-oh’s gotten a call from Da-kyung, who breaks up with him over the phone. She hangs up on him just as Sun-woo walks in the room and he gets another call, this time from Myung-sook. She informs him of the pregnancy and he literally runs out of the house after making a half-assed excuse to Sun-woo (very smooth).
And so it begins!
This show was made for multiple watches; there are so many hints, tiny details and threads sprinkled throughout. Before the reveal, everyone seemed so shifty and sinister. Afterwards, they still seemed shifty, but there was more dimension. Je-hyuk is one character I want to see more of; at first, he just seemed like a blowhard who seemed to sympathize with Sun-woo to some extent. Now I’m left wondering if Je-hyuk was also trying to gauge Sun-woo’s feelings. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he had feelings for Sun-woo himself.
There’s a nerve-wracking tension that’s both difficult to watch at times and difficult to turn away from. It’s pretty bold of the show to give us the big reveal so early on, but the first two episodes were so well-crafted that I have faith the plot won’t run out of steam (okay, so it’s more blind hope).