Cheat on Me, If You Can: Episode 16 (Final)
Our story comes to an end in a finale that successfully wraps up both our murder and the past entangled with it. While the mystery ended satisfactorily, the same can’t be said for all of our characters. I have mixed feelings.
CEO Yoon asks Yeo-joo, “You know the culprit, don’t you?” Yeo-joo thinks back to the CCTV footage on the USB – of course, we only see a shadow of a person walking down the hallway – and realizes what CEO Yoon is after.
Before the detectives rush to the station, Yeo-joo cautions that whoever confessed isn’t the true culprit. Unsurprisingly, it’s Mrs. Yeom, and she apologizes for not turning herself in sooner. Unlike Manager Kim, she accurately answers their questions about the details of the murder.
We flash back to Yeo-joo showing the detectives the USB footage which shows Mrs. Yeom in the hallway of Soo-jung’s apartment building. Since there’s no blood on her clothes and she’s not seen entering Soo-jung’s apartment, Seung-cheol believes the footage must have been tampered with.
As Yeo-joo predicted, Mrs. Yeom is making herself out to be the killer and doesn’t want Yeo-joo to be contacted. The detectives are at a loss watching her sob that she doesn’t want the Yeo-joo she raised to view her as a killer. Yeo-joo’s theory, though, is that Mrs. Yeom is turning herself in because she thinks Yeo-joo is the killer.
In a cell, Mrs. Yeom remembers discovering Soo-jung’s body in the apartment. Panicked, she’d taken the knife and perfume bottle from the scene, wrapping them in her scarf. Later, she’d hidden them in the basement fridge, which explains the bloodstain Soo-ho found.
Meanwhile, Woo-sung gets a visit from Mi-rae 2.0 in all her rich glory. He and Jin-ho are utterly shocked when she asks for their services – she wants to get divorced. I guess that confirms she and Jae-ha are married.
Her abusive husband Jae-ha storms into Investigator Kwak’s office after learning Mi-rae intends to divorce him. Because, somehow, this is the investigator’s fault. Perhaps Jae-ha is so angry because Mi-rae plans to take him for millions. Jae-ha is even deranged enough to ask Investigator Kwak his rate for a hit on Woo-sung.
Woo-sung is reeling from learning Mi-rae’s real identity, but Jin-ho is all about that money she’ll bring in for them. Woo-sung is worried since they’ll be going up against Jae-ha, a member of another prominent chaebol family.
After getting a call from Yeo-joo, Woo-sung visits Mrs. Yeom in jail. When he tries to get her to recant her confession, she blames him for everything. If he hadn’t cheated, she wouldn’t have gone to Soo-jung’s. Mrs. Yeom heads off his denial by telling he she saw them together.
Woo-sung goes to a bar and drinks while Mrs. Yeom’s admonitions replay in his head. Yeo-joo’s hatred of cheating stems from her father’s behavior, so how could Woo-sung hurt her like this?
Yeo-joo returns to an empty house and finds the fridge stuffed with a myriad of pre-prepared dishes. After Yeo-joo’s mom died, she had struggled to talk and eat. Mrs. Yeom had been the one to get her eating again.
Now, Yeo-joo eats a bowl of that same dumpling soup Mrs. Yeom made for her back then. We get a staring chain as Soo-ho stands outside the kitchen watching Yeo-joo eat alone, and Woo-sung stands at the doorway watching Soo-ho watching her.
Elsewhere, Director Ma reports to Assemblyman Park that Yeo-joo’s book is almost finished, and they’ll definitely have the rights to it. CEO Yoon bursts in and suggests they be more proactive with Yeo-joo. Now that she’s threatened, I guess it’s a bigger issue.
At the station, Yeo-joo tries to convince the detectives that CEO Yoon is the culprit. The lack of evidence suggests a pro “like the NIS, for example.” Yeo-joo knows Seung-cheol is suspecting a link between the case from nine years ago and this one. He apparently hasn’t shared that tidbit with Se-jin, though.
In his office, Assemblyman Park remarks that they can’t keep being swayed by “personal feelings.” CEO Yoon pins this all on Director Ma since he’d recommended moving Soo-jung’s body from the cemetery. Pressured by CEO Yoon, Assemblyman Park says that if they fail to get the book, “I should decide this time.” Director Ma frustratedly sighs at all the back and forth over saving and killing Yeo-joo.
Yeo-joo offers to find the murder weapon for the cops, so they let her meet with Mrs. Yeom who tries to leave when she sees Yeo-joo. When Yeo-joo reassures her that she didn’t kill Soo-jung, Mrs. Yeom stops her ruse and gives up the location of the knife and perfume bottle.
They find CEO Yoon’s fingerprint on the knife, so she’s arrested and Mrs. Yeom is let go. CEO Yoon is confident she’ll be released soon, but Yeo-joo assures her she’ll be digging deeper. CEO Yoon, the spiteful woman she is, tauntingly shares that Woo-sung was bawling at Soo-jung’s funeral. Like a true villain, she evil laughs after she proclaims a daughter will always turn out like her mother.
Once they’re alone, Yeo-joo asks Mrs. Yeom why she went to Soo-jung’s that night. People have been suspecting Yeo-joo of the murder all along, but she doesn’t understand why. What motive would she have for killing Soo-jung? Yeo-joo doesn’t allow Mrs. Yeom to respond, so maybe she already knows.
Later, she asks Soo-ho if he thinks the actress seduced the lawyer or not in the end. Soo-ho doesn’t think so since the lawyer only loves his wife. Yeo-joo opts to give the readers what they want – the actress seduced the husband, and the wife gets revenge.
She recalls Soo-ho wanted to learn how to write novels, so she offers to teach him. In exchange, she has a favor to ask.
Woo-sung and Jin-ho worry about what Yeo-joo will do now. She turned the USB into the police, but she hasn’t said anything to Woo-sung about the affair. Since it’s her, they expect revenge. Woo-sung has the audacity to wonder how he got in this situation like he’s some unwitting victim.
He’s tipsy as he walks home that night and notices Soo-ho’s jacket in a car parked on the street. He hears the creaking of a metal sign (aptly reading: “Cheat on Me, If You Can”) above his head and dives away just in time as it comes crashing down. Woo-sung insists to the cops that he saw a figure on the roof where the sign fell, but there’s no one in the CCTV footage.
While Woo-sung worries over whether Yeo-joo is truly violent and revenge-seeking, Soo-ho unsuccessfully tries to stall Yeo-joo’s handover of her manuscript. She turns it in to Director Ma who turns it in to Assemblyman Park. Director Ma found it uncharacteristically unfocused, and it wasn’t even about the Secret Prayer Room. (Hmm… did she catch on?)
It seems Yeo-joo is indeed one step ahead of them since a man rushes into Assemblyman Park’s office carrying a copy of “Cheat on Me, If You Can.” Yeo-joo’s new fully published book which is about the Secret Prayer Room is already making the rounds. Assemblyman Park is livid she used his and the president’s real names, and he orders his subordinates to file an injunction to stop sales.
Director Ma, on the other hand, looks kind of smug. He flips through the book and talks to Soo-ho over the phone. Soo-ho was the one who wrote the manuscript Yeo-joo turned in. Director Ma chuckles wryly when he reads the section in the novel where Yeo-joo describes the faults with the so-called publisher’s office and realizes she knew from the start. He tosses his ring in the trash and walks away, thoroughly done with Yeo-joo and the past.
Soo-ho watches news footage announcing Assemblyman Park’s arrest before hopping in the car with Yeo-joo. When did she know he was with the NIS? She scoffs that he delicately caught an egg hurled by a protester mid-flight like it was nothing. Guess she’d had him pegged from the start, too.
Elsewhere, Mi-rae visits Jae-ha in prison where he’s a raving mess. He threatens to kill her when he gets out, but Mi-rae is unfazed. He’ll still be a drug addict, and she’ll keep finding people who have bought drugs from him. She’s already gotten articles about him as the chaebol-turned-drug-dealer published. The man does not take defeat well and has to be dragged away kicking and screaming.
While Se-jin and Seung-cheol wrap up the bureaucratic side of the case, Jin-ho again ditches his wife to drink with his bestie. Woo-sung shares his outlandish theory that Yeo-joo and Soo-ho are teaming up to kill him. Jin-ho doesn’t buy it until Woo-sung mentions the life insurance policy Yeo-joo took out on him.
Completely trashed, Woo-sung tries to hail a taxi. A black van stops in front of him. (What is it with black vans?) A man hits Woo-sung from behind, and he’s carted into the van.
We cut to Jae-ha ordering Secretary Jin to kill or at least maim Woo-sung. Someone tells a barely conscious Woo-sung that he shouldn’t have coveted something above his station. Before he passes out, we briefly see Soo-ho with a knife. A bloody Woo-sung lays in the street in the rain.
The next morning, Woo-sung wakes up sore in his bed. He remembers snippets from the previous night – being kidnapped, wandering around, asking gangster types for something – but he’s not sure if it was a dream or reality. At least some of it seems real, though, since he wired someone approximately 50k.
Woo-sung is so paranoid that he won’t drink the tea Yeo-joo brewed. He has a memory of Soo-ho holding a knife and saying he’s there per Yeo-joo’s instruction. Over breakfast, Woo-sung decides to be direct for once and tell Yeo-joo he met Soo-ho last night.
“Did you figure it out?” Yeo-joo asks. He’s horrified, but Yeo-joo calmly states Soo-ho was in the Special Forces and worked in a detective agency. Woo-sung gets worked up and asks if it’s because of his affair or because of her handsome, young assistant. Yeo-joo stares directly at him. “You had an affair?” Woo-sung tries to play it off by saying he thought that’s what she was suspecting.
The two gangster types Woo-sung approached make a trip to Investigator Kwak’s office. Rumor is he’s the best, so they want to commission him for murder.
At home, Yeo-joo can’t believe Woo-sung’s ridiculous misunderstanding. Soo-ho saved his life twice. Before Jae-ha’s men could do serious damage, Soo-ho had burst in to save the day. The knife was to cut the ropes binding Woo-sung. While Soo-ho was busy fighting a second round of men, Woo-sung ran off.
Yeo-joo is way too magnanimous about the whole thing and easily accepts Woo-sung’s apology for thinking she would murder him. At work, he sighs that Yeo-joo was always just trying to protect him. He learned from Consultant Nam that she supported him becoming an assembly member because it he’d be safer as a public figure.
In his office, his secret phone rings. Woo-sung stares at Mi-rae’s name for a beat before taking out the battery and tossing the phone in the trash.
Meanwhile, Soo-ho packs up his stuff and gets ready to leave. But he’s not going back to the NIS. Things get a bit awkward when he asks Yeo-joo if he should set up a convenience store and stay nearby. He even asks if she wants to accompany him to Dokdo Island which he visits once a year.
Direct as ever, Yeo-joo asks if he’s hitting on her. “Can I?” he requests, just as direct. Yeo-joo stares at him silently until her phone rings. She says he can’t because she’s busy and walks off, making Soo-ho smile.
Inside, Yeo-joo stands stunned. Investigator Kwak called to give her a heads up that Woo-sung tried to have her killed. She doesn’t understand what his motivation would be, so he informed her of Woo-sung’s history with women.
Woo-sung comes home bearing flowers and makes his way to Yeo-joo’s office. The printer is churning out copies of his physical rights waiver which litter the floor. It’s almost an exact replica of the scene earlier in the series.
Yeo-joo stalks toward him with an eerie look on her face and stabs him in the stomach. Although we don’t see the weapon or the wound, his expression indicates it’s probably not a fake this time. Yeo-joo grins.
WHAT was that? I know this drama loves its cliffhangers, but it didn’t have to end the entire drama on one. With all the fake outs, I’m not even sure if she stabbed him for real this time. It seemed like she did, but we didn’t see the weapon or wound, so who knows? We sure don’t because they didn’t show us. Even if she did stab him, it didn’t look like he was about to die or anything. She’s smart enough that, if she wanted to kill him, she probably wouldn’t do it in their own home. If she didn’t kill him, does that mean she’s gotten her revenge and they’re fine now? That is not the way I’d hoped we’d deal with the ramifications of Woo-sung’s cheating. For all the emphasis this drama put on that plot point from the start, there was zero exploration of the emotional impact on Yeo-joo. We got all of a few minutes at the very end to deal with her reaction. Despite her perfect, Sherlock-esque sleuthing ability to solve every mystery without breaking a sweat, she had to be told directly by a third party that her husband was cheating. If they hadn’t hyped up her abilities and explicitly referenced the impact of her father’s infidelity, it’d be easier to believe she had this glaring blind spot.
Let’s talk about Woo-sung for a minute. I’m not someone who needs a drama to moralize or characters to only act ethically. In fact, I prefer exploring grey areas and the complex, less-than-ideal aspects of human nature. I did appreciate that Woo-sung was written in a more realistic way in that he had moments of thoughtfulness and love toward Yeo-joo while also blatantly wronging her. The duality felt frustratingly real, and I liked that he wasn’t portrayed simplistically as a villain. Yet, he also wasn’t painted in a way that would elicit sympathy. He wasn’t cheating due to loneliness or serious problems at home – he just liked cheating. However, for these sorts of morally grey character to work, they need to be compelling in some way. Woo-sung was neither likable nor interesting enough to be engaging. He was a selfish coward pretending to be a good guy, and that hypocrisy was annoying. Seeing him held accountable for his actions and facing personal and public repercussions would’ve at least been a satisfying conclusion for his character. Instead, we got no discussion and a possibly real stabbing.
This was a drama all about misunderstandings and secrets which is why I have mixed feelings about that final scene. Yeo-joo was portrayed as someone who was misunderstood with so many people biased against her due to her eccentricities and cold demeanor. Having established that she didn’t do any of the things people suspected her of only to have her meet those expectations in the end felt off. Of course, I’m halfway still expecting that the entire ending was another gotcha moment. On the other hand, she did always say that she’d kill her cheating spouse, and Yeo-joo has proven pretty true to her word in general, so I guess it’s on brand. Plus, there’s the weird addition of Woo-sung putting out a hit on her. Honestly, I could’ve done without that attempted murder situation. There was enough going on in this drama without tacking that on. Even with Woo-sung’s misunderstandings and possibly being drunk, how is having your wife murdered without even fact-checking a logical solution? I would’ve preferred nixing that plot point and allocating that time to dealing with Yeo-joo and her relationships in a more nuanced way. For me, that’s mainly what was missing. I’d hoped for more character development and emotional impact, but maybe that was never what this drama was going for.
Really, this was a straight-forward, if tonally odd, mystery. In that respect, I think it worked well. The plot was intricate and gave us a slow burn mystery that brought everything together in an unhurried way, paying careful attention to detail. They wove together the past and present impressively using Soo-jung’s murder as the catalyst which revealed and deepened our core mystery bit by bit. While I liked the way everything came together, having the reveals come so slowly did make the middle section drag. It didn’t help that we spent way too much time on Mi-rae who ended up feeling tangential. As did the cops, for that matter. Seung-cheol and Se-jin were incorporated well earlier in the drama, but they felt like they were in their own little side story by the latter half. I think the intent was to have them be more developed characters rather than bland cops on a case, but they never felt organic or integral enough to the story.
Although the drama did overuse the fake outs and dramatic reveals by the end, I liked how a lot of the twists were approached. Perception and bias were major themes throughout the drama with an emphasis on not taking things at face value. Instead of getting twists that made things more dramatic, we often got twists that turned what people perceived as dramatic into the mundane. This was especially apparent when it came to Yeo-joo. Rather than assuming the simplest explanation, people sensationalized almost all Yeo-joo’s actions to fit the perception they had of her. Buying a chainsaw? She must want to hack people into bits. They also played on the tendency of us viewers to expect the dramatic by giving us cliffhangers that often weren’t what they seemed. I really liked the overall effect, but it did undermine the whodunnit aspect. By the time we got to the finale, who the killer was had little impact because we’d been given the runaround so much.
Despite any flaws, all in all, this was a fun mystery drama with a great quirky vibe and a great quirky heroine that truly embodied the idea of nothing is as it seems. Even though the ending wasn’t what I hoped for and certain characters and plot points could’ve been handled better (or left out entirely), I enjoyed following our bizarre novel writer and her mysterious life. Besides Woo-sung, obviously, I’m satisfied with where we left most of our characters and how the story concluded. There were some unanswered questions in the end with regards to details of the case, especially the whole NIS angle, but those loose threads are more annoyances than major issues. What was a major issue, though, was how bad Soo-ho was at spying. Thank goodness he retired.
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- Script reading for KBS rom-com drama If You Have an Affair, You’ll Die
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