Why Her?: Episodes 5-6
This week our drama finally provides some insight into our lady lawyer’s past and the events that hardened her heart, thickened her skin, and seemingly caused her to lose sight of her integrity along the way.
EPISODES 5-6 WEECAP
Before we delve into Soo-jae’s backstory, there’s the pesky matter of the masked man in black who broke into her office, looking for the flash drive. Chan arrives just in time to scuffle with the intruder and — unbeknownst to Soo-jae — steals back the flash drive the thief drops during their fight. Soo-jae is injured, and Chan accompanies her to the hospital, where he’s mistaken for her younger brother. (Oof! If they want me to jump on board this romantic ship, they’re going to have to stop blatantly reminding me that he’s significantly younger than her.)
Soo-jae refuses to open a police investigation into the break-in, which tips Chan off to the fact that the contents of the flash drive are extremely important, and even though it’s none of his business, he wants to know exactly what kind of trouble she’s gotten into. So, without telling her, he enlists Group 8’s help in trying to unlock the encryption on the flash drive and identify Soo-jae’s attacker. He doesn’t tell them that the investigation is for their professor, so they — half correctly — assume that they are assisting him on a case involving the woman he has a one-sided crush on.
Yoon-sang, however, correctly suspects Chan is assisting Soo-jae, and in trying to convince Chan to let him be more involved in the investigation, Yoon-sang accidentally refers to Soo-jae as “noona.” Yoon-sang admits that Soo-jae used to be his tutor and tries to convince Chan to give the flash drive back to Soo-jae, but Chan thinks it’s safer for her if she doesn’t know that they have the flash drive for now. Their whispered conversation interrupts Soo-jae’s class, and she pauses her lesson — on how to get rich clients out of jail for embezzlement by putting some other poor schmuck’s name on the documents and have him be the fall guy — to kick them out of the classroom.
Out in the hallway, Chan proceeds to beat himself up in embarrassment, and Yoon-sang continues their earlier conversation. Chan doesn’t want to reveal too much to Yoon-sang, though, because he knows Yoon-sang’s father is Tae-kook. Since Soo-jae’s attacker is most likely someone who knows the contents of the Hansu Bio files, that puts Yoon-sang’s father and brother at the top of the suspect list, but Yoon-sang insists that’s why Chan needs him on the case. He has connections and can snoop around the TK Law Firm undetected. Chan reluctantly agrees, and tells him to put together a list of people close to Soo-jae who know about the flash drive.
Group 8 does their own sleuthing and eventually figures out that the flash drive belonged to Soo-jae, and that the man who attacked her and tried to steal it was HONG SUK-PAL (Lee Cheol-min), a gangster and owner of the bar where So-young worked. Joo-wan hired him to steal the flash drive so he could give it to his father, and when Joo-wan found out Suk-pal lost the flash drive, he pulled his car over and the two men were caught on CCTV arguing.
The students obtained the CCTV footage, and the other students are oblivious to Yoon-sang’s discomfort as he confirms his brother was involved with the attack on Soo-jae. The CCTV footage also leads to another revelation: Suk-pal’s gait matches the unidentified man suspected of stealing So-young’s cell phone.
Chan finally hands over the unlocked flash drive and CCTV footage to Soo-jae, and in a private conversation with her friend CHAE JOON-HEE (Cha Chung-hwa), Soo-jae admits how much her young pupil unnerves her. She’s tried so hard to develop a poker face and not show her inner fragility, so she’s embarrassed that he can clearly see her softer, vulnerable side.
Unfortunately this particular emotional monologue with her bestie felt like another forced attempt to shove the romantic plot down our throats. Please don’t tell me that Soo-jae is undergoing some sort of emotional renaissance when I’ve yet to see any evidence of their relationship evolving into something more than his one-sided crush. Chan is a lovesick puppy hung up on the past, and despite what Soo-jae might say to Joon-hee, her interactions with Chan — kiss aside — don’t feel much deeper than those she has with Yoon-sang.
That said, I liked how her exposed vulnerability paired well with the following scene of her putting on her makeup in preparation for a dinner meeting with Tae-kook. As she applied her lipstick, I felt like she was putting on war paint and metaphorically rebuilding her defenses after opening up to Joon-hee. It was a nice visual representation of Soo-jae’s characterization, and as she put on her symbolic cosmetics, both Soo-jae and the audience prepared for the unexpected blow that was about to come.
Because before meeting with Tae-kook, she has a private moment with Gi-tak, who wants to talk about a “rumor” he overheard. That rumor is about Soo-jae, and it’s through this conversation that we flashback and learn that Soo-jae not only dated Joo-wan — as previously hinted — but she became pregnant with his baby.
Tae-kook sent her to the United States with the promise that Joo-wan would follow, but he never did. Instead, Joo-wan married someone else, and Soo-jae gave birth to a stillborn baby. Soo-jae attempted suicide, but she lived and returned to TK Law Firm to enact her revenge.
When she finally does join Tae-kook for dinner, her earlier conversation with Gi-tak builds with Tae-kook explaining that he knew all along that she returned with revenge on her mind, and knowing her intentions means she was never much of a threat to him. Soo-jae’s armor is still intact after, though, and she coolly reveals that she knows he put her name on Gi-tak’s embezzlement documents, meaning — if you remember back to her previous class lesson — that he intended to have her take the fall for his crimes.
She uses this knowledge to leverage a deal to make a large sum of money from the Hansu Bio sale. Tae-kook agrees, but on one condition: she handles Joo-wan’s divorce. This also turns out to be the first step of Tae-kook’s plan to have Joo-wan marry Soo-jae and have her become part of the family. You know, gotta keep your enemies close and in the family.
While Tae-kook tries to regain control over Soo-jae, she continues her investigation into So-young’s death in order to uncover more evidence that she can use against Tae-kook and his accomplices. Since the members of Group 8 already know too much and have proven themselves extremely useful, she enlists their help. In exchange for their assistance — and their agreement to sign a non-disclosure agreement — she offers to do them one favor (of their choice) in return.
Se-ryun wants to work at TK Law Firm after graduation, and Soo-jae agrees under the added stipulation that Se-ryun must score 1200 on her exam. NAM CHUN-POONG (Lee Jin-hyuk), the computer guru who unlocked the flash drive, wants Soo-jae to agree to be his lawyer should he ever happen to need her services — not that he plans on needing them, of course. JO GANG-JA (Kim Jae-hwa), a former cop who still has a lot of connections in law enforcement, requests that Soo-jae assist her on a case that will be going to trial soon.
When it’s Yoon-sang’s turn, Soo-jae tells him to stay out of the case, but he insists on aiding her even though he’s disappointed that she’s seemingly investigating So-young’s murder for selfish reasons (i.e. entrapping his father as part of her revenge). She was much nicer when she was his tutor, and Yoon-sang wonders if his family evoked the change. Much like Chan, though, Yoon-sang believes he can still see the old Soo-jae beneath her cold exterior, and so he signs Soo-jae’s contract.
In exchange for his assistance, he requests that Soo-jae not fall for Chan. He saw Soo-jae with Chan together the night she struck her deal with Tae-kook, and he got jealous because — according to him — he’s never seen her laugh like that before.
Not only is this annoying because — once again — we’re being verbally told Soo-jae’s feelings for Chan rather than witnessing them naturally evolve, but it also kind of makes me dislike Yoon-sang. One minute he’s feeling sad that she’s become cold-hearted, and the next moment he’s trying to take away the one individual capable of bringing out her good side. If he actually cared for her, he would want her to be happy.
And finally, it’s Chan’s turn to sign the NDA, and he does so without asking any demands of her — a move so smooth that it has Mi-rim gushing. Chan amps up the charm even more and knocks the socks off of Soo-jae’s mother YANG HWA-JA ( Lee Jong-nam) when she shows up at the school and causes a ruckus. Too bad Chan isn’t ten years older, Hwa-ja laments, because he would make a good son-in-law. (Okay, drama, make up your mind. Do you want me to approve of this noona romance, or are you going to keep throwing their age gap in my face?)
Soo-jae meets with Joo-wan’s wife LIM SEUNG-YEON (Kim Yoon-seo), and is surprised to learn that Seung-yeon is not fighting Joo-wan for custody of their daughter, as Tae-kook said. No, she doesn’t want the child because she isn’t her daughter. Even though she raised CHOI JAE-YI (Han Joo-hyun) as her own, she still harbors some resentment towards Jae-yi because the discovery of Joo-wan’s illegitimate child caused her to miscarry her unborn son.
This scene caused me to put on my tin-foil hat. What are the chances that Joo-wan had two illegitimate children around the same time? I mean, he’s certainly enough of a scumbag that it could happen, but what if Jae-yi is Soo-jae’s child (who wasn’t stillborn after all)? It’s a very makjang kind of plot twist, but I can 100% see this drama going there.
After hearing Seung-yeon’s miscarriage story, Soo-jae has the cathartic urge to share her personal history with someone who cares about her. The only other people who know about her miscarriage are the men who have used and abused her, and to combat that power they have over her, she needs to open up to someone in her corner. And that person is… Chan.
While I understand that it is sometimes easier to share secrets with strangers because their potential judgment matters less than a close friend or loved one, it feels out of character for her to want to share this particular story with Chan.
First, he’s a student, and even if I buy into the idea that she’s in the process of falling for him, the professional boundary between them has not crumbled (yet). Second, the pregnancy and miscarriage are directly tied to workplace misogyny, so it seems odd that she would feel comfortable sharing something so intimate and personal with a man — one she’s not in an official romantic relationship with (yet) — instead of her long-time female friend. Third, using something as personal and traumatizing as a miscarriage as a means to initiate intimacy and close the emotional gap between Soo-jae and Chan seems in poor taste.
My concerns about the timing of Soo-jae’s confession turns out to be a non-issue, though, because Soo-jae receives a phone call from Suk-pal before she has the chance to open up to Chan. Suk-pal confesses that he killed So-young and asks to meet Soo-jae in a secluded location, but when she arrives, he doesn’t pick up his phone. She spots him in a car, but as she walks closer he lists sideways into the passenger seat — either unconscious or dead — just before his car explodes.
Soo-jae is thrown to the ground from the blast, and it’s at that moment Chan calls her. She answers her phone, but she struggles to talk and hold a coherent conversation, alerting Chan to the fact that something is very, very wrong. As his panic starts to rise and he begs her to tell him where she’s located, the flaming car explodes again, and Chan hears the boom through the phone. Annnnnnd once again, we end this week’s episodes with Soo-jae in danger and Chan rushing frantically to save her.