It is here…the 16th and final episode of Secret Love Affair. One last chance for Sun Jae and Hye Won overcome the obstacles in their way. Do they overcome or do they get tripped up?
We begin the episode with Sun Jae hanging out at a bar with the quintet. He talks the two violinists into playing while he and the other two provide the rhythm. The message – you’ve got to feel the music and music conquers all.
Hye Won strolls to Secretary Wang’s desk. She leans over noting that Secretary Wang was studying Mahjong diligently. Secretary Wang cajoles Hye Won, anyone can go crazy for bit, you won’t hold it against me for taking over your job will you? Hye Won has to smile at Secretary Wang’s moxy.
Hye Won’s husband, the chairman’s daughter, Secretary Wang, and the sister-in-law dine. The chairman’s daughter says she has to live quietly while she is under the watchful eye of her husband. Hye Won’s husband asks earnestly “Can you live quietly?” Secretary Wang just about spits her wine out as she chuckles. The chairman’s daughter explains how her company was used to launder money and Hye Won has the records (and power) that prove it. Hye Won’s husband says he only wants his cut of the cash from Hye Won. He asks the sister-in-law if he can stay in the apartment for a couple of days while Hye Won moves out of the house. She agrees.
It’s mahjong night at the chairman’s house and Hye Won attends. She returns the necklace the chairman’s wife gave her. They smile and act friendly, but it is all an act. The chairman’s wife asks Hye Won won’t it bother her if the son-in-law ends up with the power and money? Hye Wons says she’ll use the money as bait. Hye Won tells the truth when she says all she really wants is respect. And there in lies the rub, Hye Won wants these people to respect and accept her. Ain’t gonna happen Hye Won. In the Evil Quartet’s eyes you are their servant not their equal. You may have power over them now, but they will squash you given the opportunity.
Mahjong night is normal. Secretary Wang astutely predicts that the son-in-law and Hye Won will argue and wrangle each other for more power. Hye Won wins the game of mahjong. The chairman’s daughter notes that the chairman thought Hye Won was his lap dog but she has turned out to be a tiger.
The son-in-law and Hye Won power wrangle at the end of the evening. He presses her for the files. Notice the now standard obstruction in the way of a clear camera shot in this scene. Hye Won asks him who will be her last opponent and then leaves. They are playing power chess right now.
Hye Won waits outside Sun Jae’s apartment until he comes. Sun Jae is not overjoyed to see her. Hye Won notices and asks why he is so prickly. He doesn’t answer asking where her car is. She explains she has a driver now. Sun Jae chuckles that she has everything she wants now. Hye Won tells him “his girl” has many things to do and must leave. He wonders if he’s just a whiny boy to her. Good grief Sun Jae, you know who she is married to? HE’S the whiny one! Sun Jae continues that Hye Won is embroiled in power, status and money struggles now, and that is what interests her. He goes for the jugular and tells her that her methodology is cheap, shabby and will never end. Hye Won counters she can and will end it. Sun Jae does not believe her. Hye Won says wait and see. But before she goes, she tells him to quit the quintet. Sun Jae disagrees strongly saying he loves watching the quintet get better and better each time they practice. Hye Won snipes fine, you are so smart. She tells him NOT to walk her to her car. Sun Jae retorts don’t worry, your driver is waiting for you. She wishes him pleasant dreams and he returns he will definitley sleep well. That’s the most defiant Sun Jae has ever been to her. Hye Won is uncomfortable with this prickly not adoring Sun Jae.
Hye Won does an on-line chat with Sun Jae who asks his male friend (he doesn’t know he is chatting with Hye Won) to attend the quintet recital. Hye Won asks why Sun Jae does not invite his goddess (her). Sun Jae says he won’t talk about that and signs off. Hye Won is clearly troubled by the hard cold stance Sun Jae is taking with her.
Hye Won’s husband finds out the Sun Jae has returned his scholarship and won’t be attending school anymore. He is angry, he is losing his premier student and this will lower his status, something he cannot abide. He rips into his secretary (thankless job no doubt).
The quintet give their goodbye performance. The room fills with students enjoying the music. Hye Won stands outside and listens. She leaves before Sun Jae knows she was there. Sun Jae looks for his on-line friend to no avail.
Hye Won sits at her desk and ponders. She heads to the chairwoman’s office, an office she’ll be sitting in soon. Secretary Wang notes the ceremony for her new role is soon. Hye Won sits in her new chair at her new desk and ponders some more. Hye Won heads home to her empty house and remembers all the past moments with Sun Jae there. She calls her mother while she is packing and asks if she can store some things at her house. Hye Won is moving to a new location and will buy all new furniture so it isn’t much to store.
Hye Won heads to Sun Jae’s apartment. There is a bit of awkward tension between them. Hye Won asks for a cup of tea. As they sit enjoying the tea, Sun Jae asks if Hye Won can trust the prosecutor. She is noncommittal saying she’ll meet the prosecutor at 7 the next day. Hye Won says she will remember this moment by the taste of the tea. Sun Jae tells her to forget the taste of the tea, remember the moment by touch, his touch as he pulls her into a hug. The hug transitions to a kiss…then more. As they lay in each’s arms, I say to myself this is when the show works… in the quiet moments between Hye Won and Sun Jae.
Hye Won meets with the Prosecutor and gives him the flashdrive with all the incriminating files. There is a special one-time bonus…files that also incriminate the chairman’s son-in-law. The prosecutor is stunned to have this much hard evidence delivered by Hye Won. Hye Won admits part of her wants to stop them from getting all the money.
The son-in-law and sister-in-law meet with the Dean and let him know the chairwoman won’t be around and he’ll need to step up until they can take over. The son-in-law suggests the Dean go overseas for a few days while things get sorted out. Son-in-law meets with the chairman and his wife. She’s packed and ready to turn herself over to the authorities. Head held high she leaves the house. The son-in-law meets with the chairman and his daughter. He gets a phone call from his father with the bombshell that Hye Won turned over evidence that incriminates the chairman, his wife, and HIM too. They are all shocked. The prosecutor has reviewed all the evidence Hye Won provided. He tells Hye Won that they will prosecute the Evil trio (Chairman, his wife, his son-in-law). Hye Won demurs that it is all in the prosecutors hands now. She admits she considered using the files to negotiate with the evil quartet but realized that she would end up their slave forever if she did that.
Hye Won’s professor friend plays a piece for Sun Jae. They talk about how cool Hye Won is to have gone to the prosecutor with impressive evidence. Rumor is that her sentence may be a year and a half. The professor suggests that Sun Jae trying winning a contest with the piece he just played. Turns out he has secured funding from a music foundation for Sun Jae. That is good news, Sun Jae can continue growing into a stellar pianist.
At the trial, the chairman’s wife pins the blame on Hye Won. They try to call Sun Jae as a witness but the judge won’t allow it. It must be part of the deal Hye Won made with the prosecution (that Sun Jae will not testify). When Hye Won’s husband hears the Sun Jae did NOT testify he is angry. His secretary, the bearer of the news and receiver of the tirade, is thrilled when the professor stops by for Sun Jae’s paperwork.
I intend to only focus on myself. I’m not interested in the punishment for the others. Every illegal act I did so willingly. I was wrong. I reaped luxuries – car, home, credit cards – that I did not deserve. But I wanted to make these luxuries mine. But one day I saw what I gave up to live like that. Someone asked me how are you going to live the rest of your life? I remember this vividly. It was a turning point, when someone cared about me like I’d never been cared for before. He dedicated himself to me, not giving up his life, but including me in his life. Cleaning his apartment, clearing a chair for me, I knew it then…no one had ever cared for me like that. I did not value myself, only seeing myself as a tool for others. During this time I hurt others causing them pain. So I intend to accept your punishment, I will not appeal the sentence. That is all.
Sun Jae beams with pride during her testimony. This is the woman he loves, strong, powerful, but sensitive too. As Hye Won is lead from the courtroom, they smile at each other.
Meanwhile in jail, Hye Won sleeps so well she snores annoying her cell mates. They decide to make an example of her. They wake her and cut her hair. The woman with the scissors tells Hye Won her son is 20 years old. This is punishment for the affair. Hye Won tells her to give her a buzz cut!
Sun Jae visits Hye Won in jail and is stunned at the hair. Hye Won jokes she knew he was coming to visit, so she went to the beauty parlor to get it trimmed. Sun Jae tells her it suits her. Hye Won says she has heard he is going to the finals which Sun Jae confirms. He says he’ll buy their plane tickets with the prize money so they can run away together. Hye Won says that people think she will ruin him. She tells him now he can forget about her. He did all he could. He loved her, made her give up her life, something she could not have done without him, and she thanks him. Sun Jae asks why would he go away when his home is with her? They don’t know if the sentence will be 1 year or 10 years, but they should try and live together. We’ll fight, we’ll fool around, like couples do. If we breakup now without really trying to make it, then this is all a waste. Hye Won is thrilled. Sun Jae says it helps that she is pretty. That makes them both laugh.
Sun Jae’s voiceover: I start the day playing this piece. Rain or shine, happy or sad, I play the story of life, that is the magic of Mozart. The music is undertones not a resignation. It whispers, look at life calmly with love. I don’t play this music, I touch it. Just like I touch you, dear Hye Won, you beautiful sexy woman…I’ll be back.
* I’ll save my overarching comments for the series review. This final episode was quiet matching most of the episodes. The supporting characters did not have as much to do this episode, it was the Hye Won show in this finale.
* Hye Won was definitely unnerved by Sun Jae’s disapproval when she turned the tables on the Evil Quartet and returned to her former life based on power and status.
* Sun Jae’s disapproval forced her hand. She could not have him AND have the life she was comfortable with. Hye Won had to choose. She chose love, self respect, and was willing to risk it all by giving the prosecutor the evidence against the Evil Quartet. I’m not 100% sold this was her only path. This was the redemption path the writer selected for her with an option to continue the relationship with Sun Jae after she paid the penalty for her crime. What is the crime she is paying for? Her money laundering OR that she had an affair with a younger man? The undefined prison sentence for the money laundering felt like it had the affair wrapped into it. There was also the direct societal disapproval and punishment of the affair with her cellmates cutting her hair.
* I was glad to see Sun Jae’s friends supporting him and Hye Won’s friends supporting her at the trial.
* When Sun Jae visited Hye Won in prison you could see the potential for a future life that would work for them. Hye Won finally unchained from her servitude of power and status can move forward to a simpler more fulfilling life with Sun Jae. Open ended endings used to bother me, but they allow the viewer add whatever epilogue we want.