My Wife is having an affair this week: Finale – Soo Yeon’s story

I’ve been thinking about my previous entry on the finale and realised I had been too focused on what the episode was not telling, instead of looking at the story that was being told. I then rewatched the finale, focusing only on Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s storyline and realised that there were indeed some things I had missed and that Soo Yeon’s story is being told.

From my reading of forum posts and comments on her, many either see her as being unrepentant for the adultery, or not taking any action to save her marriage, even rejecting Hyun Woo’s attempts at trying to salageve the marriage. While that was initially the view I took, I realised upon watching this episode that Soo Yeon’s journey has been more multifaceted than Hyun Woo’s. Hyun Woo’s journey throughout the series has largely been about how he has grown as a husband, hence it has been largely easier to follow. However, for Soo Yeon, we’ve been exploring her journey as a career woman, a mum and a wife – and how she attempts to juggle all three. Seen in this light, the finale then paints her journey in a more positive light.

One thing I noticed when rewatching the finale was how much more energetic and happy Soo Yeon seemed. Even in the earlier episodes of the series, before the affair was revealed, we would always see her frazzled, exhausted and looking pale.  However, there’s a certain ease and restedness in her about now – we see her meeting up with a friend, hear about her chatting with neighbours and even amongst her subordinates, she seems more at ease. Perhaps she’s even stayed clear of the mummy chat groups as we do not see any of that in this episode. In the final scene, she tells Joon-Soo that she’ll be waiting for him at home with corn and cheese, instead of what used to happen where she’d be rushing to fetch him. She’s certainly smiling so much more in the finale than we’ve ever seen her throughout the entire series. It’s clear that Soo Yeon has let go of the need to be perfect and has found a way to balance her priorities while also taking care of herself.  As Soo Yeon’s journey in this show was about her coping as a working mum, it’d good that the finale brought some closure to this.

As for the marriage, we learn that in the time that has elapsed between the end of the previous episode and this episode (easily about 4-6 months), Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon have been meeting up regularly for meals and spending time together. While most people who have divorced on this show no longer even see their spouse, Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon have started spending more time together than ever before and relating to each other. When Soo Yeon gets rejected from promotion, the first person she calls is Hyun Woo and she even suggests that she can go over to his office, which even surprises him. Now, this is a big step of growth for her, because when she first told him about the adultery, she mentioned that she had kept all her struggles to herself and never told him. She has now grown to open herself up emotionally to him, and allowed herself to be vulnerable.

That emotional vulnerability becomes even more apparent when she sees him dining with his neighbour. Though she doesn’t say anything, she just stops there and looks on, and it’s clear to him that it affects her. She stays outside of his door even when she comes to visit, respecting that he may have moved on and she cannot think of herself as always being a part of his life. This is reinforced by the fact that his fridge also has food from the neighbour. She subsequently tells him that they should stop feeling sorry to each other and they should be happy in their own lives. Earlier on, Soo Yeon mentions that Hyun Woo’s decision to divorce was to make her feel comfortable. She now does something similar to him, by telling him to move on and be happy in pursuing love.

Coming back to her forum post, what came through upon second viewing is how she lays no blame upon him at all for what happened. She portrays him as always fighting for their relationship and even more powerfully for saving her from walking towards the pathway of destruction. What stood out was how she was even somewhat thankful for him finding out about her relationship with Michael, because she knew that the relationship was doomed from the start. While all women would treat that moment of discovery with shame, Soo Yeon sees it as a moment of salvation for her. For someone as private as Soo Yeon to share her own journey in such a detailed manner in such a public forum certainly takes a lot of courage and she’s done so for the sake of her husband.

While we do not see the forum users’ responses to her sharing, the very fact that they gather to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Toycrane at a restaurant is a sign that Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s story has brought hope and reconciliation to the lives of those following their story. After closer viewing of the finale, I do feel a great sense of hope as I watch the both of them smiling at each other, across the zebra crossing and I have no doubt that they will work things out moving ahead.

My wife is having an affair this week: Finale

The series ends off on a happy note for most of our relationships and even for the forum users as some of their lives have moved on towards a positive trajectory. Yet, amidst the happiness of the ending, I felt a sense of dissatisfaction at the issues that were glossed over and swept under the carpet.

Yoon-ki and Ara’s relationship has generally been poorly handled and just as I saw a glimmer of hope in the previous episode, this episode blew it all to bits again. Once again, there’s such excess to their storyline – earlier on, it was too much philandering scenes and now, we have too much revenge scenes. Did we really need to get so many scenes of Yoon-ki’s pathetic state post-divorce, or so many scenes of violence from Ara? Instead of the revenge sequences, which were downright cruel, I would have rather had some proper conversations between Ara and Yoon-ki, or even Yoon-ki with Hyun Woo or Joon-Young, reflecting on his actions and his state now. Certainly reconciliation is not on the cards and would be unrealistic, but greater exploration of their emotional journey would certainly have been more meaningful.

And then we have Joon Young and Bo Young’s storyline, which has always been the spark of the series. The two of them are downright cute together and have such great chemistry. They have so many touching and humorous moments – squabbling over the baby’s name, Bo Young moving into Joon-Young’s place and seeing the most sweet little nursery set up by Joon Young. I loved the scene where Bo Young walks around the house and uncovers all the photos of himself that Joon Young has hidden throughout. The core of their relationship in this episode centres around the baby girl and how they’ll handle it; however, the finale fails to explore what this whole issue means for both of them as divorcees. Didn’t Bo Young mention in the previous episode that she was not ready for a relationship again? What happened then to let her believe she was ready? How about Joon Young – he has certainly fallen into his role as a daddy very quickly – isn’t that a very big step ahead? How does he know that he’s ready as both a husband and a daddy? To expect answers to these may be requesting for too much, but I was hoping these would at least be touched upon. Ultimately, the pregnancy seems to have come a way to push them together towards the end.

Saving the best for last, we have Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon. When we started off the episode with her typing in the forum, I was hoping we’d get some insights into how she had grown, rather than a summary of what we had already seen in the past 11 episodes. And that’s precisely what we get – we hear of how over-stretched she was, how the affair gave her an outlet, and how she’s been a bad wife to Hyun Woo. She ends with the realisation that she has been a selfish wife and that all along, her husband has been holding on to her. There’s no sense that she’s intending to do anything with that realisation. Even after she sees him with another woman, she doesn’t make an attempt to hold on to him, and instead, calls him and says they should stop being sorry for each other, and be happy in their own lives.

Her phone call leads Hyun Woo to the realisation that he’s been too focused on the past and what has happened. He now has found the courage to leave all that’s happened in the past and not care about the wife that’s cheated on him, because what’s most important is “her, it’s her”, emphasising the wife that he sees before himself right now. He expresses hope that she too can let go of the past “him”, the person who was “foolish and lame”. And we see him walking across the zebra crossing to reach out to her, symbolising his attempt once again not to let go of her. While I understand him letting go of the past, I don’t understand why he sees the need for her to forget the “foolish and lame” him, because he evidently displayed growth from the moment of realising about the affair until the decision to divorce. He certainly gives himself too little credit and I believe even Soo Yeon saw his growth. This has led me to realise that the series is ultimately not about how a couple handles with adultery, but really with how a husband handles it when his wife cheats on him, which is honestly a tad disappointing.

I still admire this show very much for its courage in tackling such a tough issue and exploring the darkest, toughest corners of it. It’s been a hard-hitting and raw journey from start to end, especially for Hyun Woo. There were many moments throughout where the show caused me to seriously reflect on my own marriage and how I would respond to a similar setting. This show has been powerful in all the forums and discussion boards as well, causing people to open up and share their very personal stories. Regardless of how I feel about the finale, the journey of watching this show has been an extremely enriching and unique one and I’ve really enjoyed all the discussions of it. Perhaps the ending is left deliberately open for us to continue that dialogue about what it will take for Hyun Woo to Soo Yeon to rebuild their marriage again. It will certainly be long journey ahead, requiring both of them to work at it.

As we end the series, I’d also like to thank all who’ve commented on my blog, either through comment boards or on the entries itself. I’ve enjoyed talking about the show and discussing our views about marriage. This is a topic I personally feel passionate about and this show was timely as I wanted to watch a drama that dealt with marriage and not just dating and romance. In that aspect, the show certainly exceeded my expectations as it took a very realistic look at marriage in such an engaging and creative manner. Big thanks to the cast and crew of the show for making this so enjoyable!

My wife is having an affair this week: Episode 11

Wow – that was excellent!

The series delivers its best episode yet in its penultimate episode, handling every relationship well and packing in emotional punches that are so real to life. Calling this show a cautionary tale against adultery and divorce may be reducing what it’s trying to do, but the message was clear in this episode that divorce is a difficult, tedious, heart-wrenching process.

Hyun Woo & Soo Yeon

Now I’ve always been sitting on the fence for Soo Yeon, saying that her journey has largely been untold hence being unwilling to judge her. However, I have to say that I swung more towards the dissatisfied camp viewing her behaviour in this episode. While Hyun Woo is desperately trying at the start to provide suggestions to her to recover their romance, she just turns a blank look towards him and “sorry” is the only word she says throughout. She’s so trapped in her own guilt that she’s unwilling to even give it a shot to try to win her husband back. She takes it as a given, even as he moves away from her when the memories flash back. She gives in to the fact that the marriage can never be the same again. Why is she so unwilling to fight for the marriage – even if it’s for the sake of her son? If the show’s so willing to paint her in that negative light, I’m also hoping it does her justice by explaining her unwillingness to put in that effort to fight for her marriage and her son.

The sad thing about Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s marriage is that the very reasons why they are divorcing are also the very reasons why they should work on the marriage. They are both overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and having failed each other. It’s ironic and somewhat bittersweet that the decision to go through with the divorce brings them together both physically and emotionally. They’ve had the most screen time together this episode than the entire series. Emotionally wise, it’s almost as if the decision to divorce brings a clarity and they can now work together on the journey ahead. Even the divorce planner looks at them in disbelief, at how easily they agree on things and how they put each other’s needs first. As they speak to their parents, they present a united front and never push the blame on each other, attempting to uplift the other spouse in front of their parents. In selecting a new home for Soo-Yeon and Joon-Soo, Hyun Woo is so detailed, ensuring every aspect is looked into. Even as they work on how they will lead separate lives, they are growing closer again – the closest they’ve ever been in the series. And sometimes, it’s the clarity in moving ahead that brings a couple together. It was both touching yet painful to watch and the show does an amazing job in portraying their journey.

Since I’ve always been rooting for Joon-Soo to get a voice, I have to mention the scene with him this episode, for which heart-breaking cannot even begin to describe. Tears flow down his eyes as he remains strong, telling his dad that he will protect his mum. It’s a brief scene, with little emotional fanfare, but you know this boy’s life will never be the same again.

Joon Young and Bo Young

Their relationship and the pregnancy was handled with such maturity and grace – I was seriously impressed. I’ve always spoken about the show’s excellent production values and this episode displayed that once again. In the scene where both of them speak to each other while sitting in front of computers, we see their conversation through a window and when one is speaking to the other, we see both the person’s actual face and their reflection.

Bo Young and Joon Young are not just talking to each other in this scene, they are also talking to themselves and reflecting on their own emotional journeys. Every scene with them is so on-point and touching. Joon Young keeps prodding Bo Young, teasing her playfully about them going dating. There’s a certain charming confidence about him as he knows what he wants and goes for it. Bo Young’s turmoil is so clearly displayed during this episode. She wants the child, and she wants to be with Joon Young – but she doesn’t want marriage and all the emotional complications that it entails for her. Joon Young is clear – he wants to be by her side, regardless of what it entails. The decision between them is not whether to be together, but with how to view their relationship. If there was no child involved, dating would be alright. However, now with the child present, it seems like they cannot be together without getting married – which is honestly something I’m also not sure Joon Young is ready for. The best way ahead for them would not be to rush into marriage, but to continue dating and dealing with the emotional outfall from their respective divorces. While the child is important, any couple must always not lose track of building their relationship and in that aspect, both of them still have some work.

I do appreciate that Joon Young’s sweetness and care for Bo Young is so tender and natural, as displayed during the working lunch. In fact, it’s so natural that anyone at the table could easily miss it. He’s attentive to her throughout, watching out for her needs, handling her water when she runs out, opening her rice bowl for her. It’s really touching to see and really, this is what love is about – not the huge dramatic gestures, but these small acts of attentiveness.

Yoon-ki and Ara

really appreciated that there was no overblown, overdramatic sequences this time round and all we got was serious exploration of the consequences of Yoon-ki’s philandering ways. I knew we were in for something good when Ara came to speak to Hyun Woo (could she be Tuna Mayo?), but her conversation with him reveals her emotional journey over the past year where she grew to hate who she was becoming. She felt like she was becoming a monster as her hatred for the man she loved kept brewing and growing. She finally reached a point where she stopped loving him and no longer needed to battle with her emotions. She can now simply focus on hating him and getting payback.

I sense her emotional journey is not fully over and there may come a point in the next episode where she realises that taking Yoon-ki down is not giving her the emotional resolution that she needs. Her pathway to revenge is actually simply another way of avoiding the tediousness of talking through her emotions with Yoon-ki. It would have been so much more painful and difficult to ask him why he stopped loving her and why he did all those thing. Interestingly, I am now keen to hear Yoon-ki’s side of the story a little more – what exactly was going through his mind when he persisted in flagrant philandering? Did he never think that she would divorce him?

If there’s one thing in common for both Soo Yeon and Ara, it’s that they are both portrayed as being very alone. They have no community of friends where they can just let loose and have fun, unlike their husbands. We did see Soo Yeon interacting with a friend a while back, but that certainly seems like a rare occurrence.

Forum community

I found myself quite surprised at how invested I was in the journeys of these forum users that we’ve come to know throughout the series. Not in the sense that I like them, but I did find myself smiling to see the hacker couple reconcile and was touched by the emotional closure at the end between the two elderly ladies.

It’s been such a satisfying emotional journey with this show and I can’t wait to see what the finale brings tonight!

My Wife is having an affair this week: Wishlist

This show has been such a refreshing ride thus far, with the boldness to not just tackle a difficult issue, but also to push its exploration to the darkest, most difficult corners. It hasn’t been a perfect, but I’ve admired a lot of things that it has done. As we reach the final two episodes this week, I wanted to make a list of things that I hope the show will explore to end the show on a meaningful (which is not necessarily positive) note:

Wishlist for Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon

  • Some growth for Soo Yeon: From my sensing of the forums, most people have come down rather hard on Soo Yeon, which to me seems rather unfair. The show has done little to delve into her emotional journey and her post-affair emotional state seems to be only that of guilt. It’s fair to say that based on what we’ve seen so far, she has not experienced much growth at all. In the final two episodes, I hope the show will allow her to also experience some growth, not just because I want a positive ending, but also it will be meaningful to explore how a person whose committed adultery can take steps towards recovering the marriage. I don’t expect her to make a complete turnaround, but I would like her to take some steps towards self-realisation and make decisions to improve as a wife in terms of her communication with her husband and her balancing of responsibilities.
  • More of Joon-Soo’s voice: It wouldn’t be too late to also let us see a bit of Joon-soo’s emotional journey. While his parents have decided not to divorce, there’s certainly tension between them and that would certainly have an impact on the child. Even now between my wife and I, little squabbles between the two of us already affect our children, what more for Joon Soo. I’ve been rooting from the start for the show to give a child a voice, because it’s so common for the child’s voice to be silenced when marital breakdown occurs. Let’s hear a bit more from him.

Happy moments from Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s marriage: These have been far and few between and the show has clearly held back on any positive memories between the two of them. Just towards the final two episodes, I’d like to see some happy, sweet moments that they’ve shared previously as part of their journey. This is not to say that they have to reconcile towards the end (though I seriously hope they do), but the decision even to divorce is always a struggle between balancing the joy that the marriage brings and the pain it has brought, hence whatever end we reach, it’d be useful for the show to show how the couple makes such a decision.

Wishlist for Joon Young and Boo Young

  • Exploration of their post-divorce emotional journey and decision to recommit to a relationship: The pregnancy certainly came as a shocker and honestly I have no clear sense of where I’d personally like this to be taken. However, on the bigger scheme of things, I’d like to see how both of them reconcile their feelings, coming out of a divorce. We’ve thus far only seen their growing attraction for each other, but they’ve not spoken to each other about their feelings. The pregnancy will certainly be part of this exploration – I do not think Bo Young is ready to have a child and I hope that pregnancy doesn’t become the impetus for them to get married. As it is, I felt the pregnancy added somewhat unnecessary complications to what is already a relationship with many rich dimensions to explore.
  • To hear Joon Young’s wife’s side of the story: I know this is rather far-fetched, given that we’re in the final two episodes already, but I’m not asking for an extended exploration. Just a scene will do, even. Perhaps one between her and Bo-Young, to understand why she left him three days after their marriage. How did she feel after that? Why didn’t she pursue a divorce? What were her reasons for still going through her marriage?

Wishlist for Yoon-ki and Ara

  • Switch to a more serious tone to explore issues: Their relationship has been portrayed in such over-the-top and exaggerated manner that it’s difficult to really see the serious issues underlying their marriage. It actually started off quite well with in the first few episodes with Yoon-ki being used meaningfully to say all the politically-incorrect things and Ara talking about how the fact he was hiding the affairs from her showed that he loved her. However, it was just dragged on for too long with us having to bear with too many scenes of Yoon-ki’s philandering. Even the resolution of it through Ara’s vengeance attempts don’t seem very satisfying and it even seems like Yoon-ki is being let off too easily.

It’s been an enjoyable ride so far and even if all the wishes above are not addressed, I still have great respect for the show and the story it has been telling so far. Beyond the emotional issues, the show has also taken a very entertaining, convincing and meaningful look at the impact of social media and online communities. Can’t wait to see the final two episodes!

My wife is having an affair this week Episode 10

Unlike previous episodes which were more relationship-focused, this episode had a different pace and tone to it, seeming almost like an action-thriller, which was a refreshing change from the previous episodes.

The whole stalker taking revenge storyline is very well done, beginning tensely with someone typing mysterious in the dark that he has traced that the wife is a graphic designer. This stalker’s first strike is amazingly staged. In the scene before, we see Hyun-Woo selecting flowers, his fingers going over a huge basket of flowers and asking whether he can include a card. The scene switches then to Soo Yeon’s office, where we see the deliveryman walking up the stairs with the baskets and passing it over to her. We are filled with anticipation and hope (if we haven’t watched the trailers, that is) as her staff all wow at the flowers and ask if it’s from her husband. It’s even a possible moment of redemption for her, given the gossip that’s been spreading about her separation. As she smiles to herself and opens the card, she realises to her shock and horror (and ours too) that the card contains a harsh and vengeful hand-written message, saying “I can’t ever forgive the one who betrayed her family. Your husband might have forgiven you, but I can’t forgive you.” It’s a shocking and chilling message, and Soo Yeon’s expression is immediately overcome with fear, while her colleagues around her wonder what has happened.

Following that, a tight and tense sequence of events unfold with Hyun Woo trying to stop the stalker from revealing Soo Yeon’s identity. The editing is deft and sharp, with events unfolding in a fast and furious manner. Hyun Woo pleads with the stalker to not do anything, but he’s insistent. Soo Yeon then reveals herself as a final resort to stop him. It seems like the stalker is going to reveal who she is, then Hyun Woo’s computer shuts down and upon restarting, we realise the forum community has rallied around him and flooded the forum with postings about how they’ve forgiven her. At the sidelines, the couple on the verge of divorce put their computer geekery to great use (which leads to very cool sequences of coding and hacking). They eventually identify the stalker’s location and pass the IP address to Hyun Woo. He tracks the stalker down and it turns out to be his boss (!), who is taking revenge because he is now suffering as a result of divorce (seriously, is there anyone in this show who isn’t divorced?). I had earlier expressed dissatisfaction that Soo Yeon let Hyun Woo off so easily for revealing their story online, so it was nice to see the consequences being explored. This consequences go beyond just Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon and we see how other forum users also use this incident as a way to move ahead in their own lives, whether it’s to reconcile with their spouses or to reflect on life choices.

The Yoon-ki and Ara storyline also takes a somewhat “action-packed” route this week with the key scene being the fight between Ara and the florist, which I honestly found disturbing. I have lost interest in the storyline, but I do appreciate that we no longer see Yoon-Ki philandering without consequences and divorce is on the cards for him, which at this point seems almost too easy.

Looking at both the Hyun Woo-Soo Yeon and Yoon-ki-Ara storylines, it’s clear that the show is taking predominantly the husband’s perspective in exploring both. The wife is largely silenced for most of it; their thoughts and emotions get little air-time compared to their husbands. More seriously, their emotions are presented rather simplistically, with Soo Yeon expressing mostly guilt and Ara now being angry and seeking revenge. I really would have wished we had more time to hear from them, especially to understand what was going through Ara’s mind and why she endured Yoon Ki’s philandering for so long. Actually, if we look at Joon-Young’s marriage, his wife’s perspective is completely silent – in fact, we don’t even hear a word from her this week and the news of him divorcing her is merely presented to us through him telling Bo Young. It’s so deliberately done that I’m left wondering why the women’s journeys are so under-explored in this series. While I respect the writers’ choices, there is definitely amiss when we don’t hear the other side.

As the episode comes to a close, we have a heartfelt conversation between Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon. He apologises to Soo Yeon for not noticing how much she has done over the years and for leaving her alone. He shares how he was always proud that they had not fought for over eight years; however, the truth was that were so many things he didn’t know. Soo Yeon apologises too for leaving a big scar on Joon-Soo and him. He then tells her that they should forget everything and moves forward to hug her. And as he hugs her, the memories of her with the other man flash in his head and he pulls back. He tries again, but the memories overwhelm him – forgiving may be easy, but forgetting isn’t. I admire the show for being brave enough to resist the easy way out by sweeping everything under the carpet. Even at episode 10, we still aren’t aware if they are going to get back together and this reflects the real difficulty of rebuilding a marriage after trust has been lost. It’s not something that an apology or even, repeated apologies will resolve. It often takes years to even regain that trust.

The episode closes with a scene of Boo Young discovering that she’s pregnant, which comes to me as a real shocker as I was enjoying the relative simple, problem-free romance between her and Joon-Young. It’s also surprising because we’re entering the final two episodes of the series and I wonder how it can tie together so many loose ends. While the show has certainly been a refreshing in the way it approaches a difficult issue, I’m left wondering and even worrying about the kind of message that will emerge at the end of the show. I’m hoping that the show at the very least manages to do justice to Soo Yeon’s character and we see some growth for her in this marriage.

My Wife is having an affair this week Episode 9

(Image credits: itechpost.com)

My experience watching and writing about drama series has led me to realise that it’s more productive to focus on what the show does, instead of on what the show doesn’t do. This allows you to truly appreciate what the writer is trying to do and judge it on its own standards. This realisation became very important for me when viewing this episode.

Joon-Soo’s feelings and experience of marital breakdown

Ever since the beginning of the series, I’ve hoped that the show will take explore the impact of marital breakdown on the child through Joon-Soo. This is because my conversations with colleagues handling divorce issues previously has often surfaced the fact that the child’s voice is often what is neglected when parents undergo divorce. This was part of my great disappointment in the previous episode, which piled on a series of unfortunate incidents on Joon-Soo without exploring his feelings. Episode 9 continues to gloss over the feelings of Joon-Soo, as all that he expressed in the hospital bed in Episode 8 is not picked up on. I would have liked to see Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon at least talk about how they would respond to Joon-Soo’s desire for both of them to be together and why they decided to put aside his feelings for the sake of their own. However, we get none of that and the episode begins with Hyun Woo’s scrambling to get Joon-Soo ready for school and then bringing him to office when the school has a day off.

Viewing the first third of the episodes make it clearer that the series has never intended to explore his feelings, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With that realisation, I was able to appreciate the role of Joon-Soo better and see that the show wanted to use him as a way to highlight the challenges of working parents and how both parents need to work together. He’s also used to good comedic effect in this episode and I laughed out loud at his straightforward, child-like manner of telling Bo Young and Joon Young that they liked each other. I liked also how the show portrayed Hyun Woo’s awkwardness when being a part of a chat group between the mums, being bombarded with messages and wondering how he should reply. It’s such a real and contemporary issue, as I have many parent friends with primary school kids sharing with me how crazy these parent whatsapp groups can be. I applaud the show for portraying this so realistically through its format with the layering of the text messages over the scene and Lee Sun-Kyun’s very animated face which often tells so much without even having to say anything.

Soo Yeon’s journey

While the lack of exploration of the child’s feelings is understandable, one area I do find quite lacking in the show is the perspective of the woman, specifically Soo Yeon. Ever since the truth came out, we’ve had repeated apologies from her and expressions of guilt and then she explanation about how she was on the verge of breaking down because she had tried to juggle the roles of mum and career-woman well. However, we’ve not had a chance to explore further her feelings about the marriage and particularly Hyun Woo.

Soo Yeon does mention at the end of ep7 that she should have came to Hyun Woo first about her feelings of being over-stretched, but we don’t go beyond that. Why is she so estranged from  him? Why did she not share her feelings with him? How did he make her feel over the years of their marriage? Surely she has had a role to play too in them growing apart. By relation, what is her process of growth and maturation through this all, besides apologising and regretting the affair? We are very clear about how Hyun Woo has grown, but we don’t know how Soo Yeon has developed through this – in fact, has she even learnt anything about how she could have prevented their marriage from growing apart? We are already three-quarters through the series and yet we have little insight into her growth and journey. While I do understand the value of telling the story through one perspective, the show runs the risk therefore of silencing the woman’s voice from this all.

Soo Yeon’s journey is explored mainly from the lens of being a working mum and we have barely seen it being explored from the perspective of being a wife. From that perspective, she does have some victory in this episode as she stands up to her extremely condescending and irritating boss, but given that the show has already started exploring Soo Yeon’s emotional journey as a wife, it should pursue that further and show her growth.

Hyun Woo

On the other end, we see Hyun Woo taking concrete steps in this episode to rebuild his relationship with Soo Yeon and that involved him seizing the right timing, by offering to send her back after they’d spent a night with friends. Unlike most k-dramas, I really appreciate that the soundtrack for this series is more muted and subtle, and key moments are not over-played. Him seizing the moment to fetch Soo Yeon back is not overplayed for dramatic effect; it is instead a quiet, small moment of victory, that allows him just to share his realisations of how much he has done. There are a lot of nice, quiet moments between him and Soo Yeon in this episode, as they slowly rebuild their relationship – this is very real, because reconciliation is a long, step-by-step and difficult process. There’s no rush to quickly reconcile the both of them, and I appreciated that they start off first by just spending time together at the end of the episode, learning to be friends again.

It’s also very heartwarming to see that Hyun Woo has such a supportive community of colleagues around him, especially Boo Young and Joon Young who have the most sweet, lovely scenes in this episode as they take care of Joon-Soo. The both of them are certainly bring so much joy, sweetness and hope in this series.

Impact of social media

As the episode ends, there are hints of impending danger to Soo Yeon as a member of the forum community has decided to take things into his own hands. Now, I was really impressed by this direction because the forum community is thrown to the forefront and the show takes a hard look at both the merits and demerits of social media. While the forum itself becomes the platform for Soo Yeon and Hyun Woo to reconnect, it also becomes dangerous and this is explored further in the next episode, which I thought was fantastic. I had previously expressed unhappiness that Soo Yeon’s anger over Hyun Woo’s forum posting was so quickly glossed over, mainly because I had wished the show explored the consequences of him pouring his life out so openly. This upcoming development provides ample opportunity to explore the consequences and is therefore something I strongly welcome. It also adds a great amount of excitement and tension of a more action-packed nature to this series, which is something I never expected. The cliffhanger ending really makes me excited to see what will happen next.

My Wife is Having an Affair this week: Episode 8

Watching this episode made me concerned that Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s reconciliation may not be as well-handled as their break-up.

Thus far, the show has been competent in highlighting the emotional complexities involved when a marriage becomes estranged. I’ve been impressed that the show has dug deep beneath the surface of the adultery issue and looked at important issues in marriage as well as gender roles. The show has been resolute in refusing to give us any happy moments between Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon; in fact, the only glimpse of a happy moment came in Episode 7, when we were given a brief scene of them admiring the stars.  Both of them have continually come up against barriers that hold them back from having an honest conversation and such barriers have been used as opportunities for them to reflect on their lives, their behaviour and their beliefs. However, in this episode, there seems to be an attempt to simplify the issues between them, so as to start towards a resolution. Why do I say that?

First of all, through what happens to Joon-Soo in this episode, the show seemed to be bashing us over the head with the message that “divorce is bad for the child”. When reviewing episode 2, I mentioned that I hoped the show would give the child a voice as their voice is often unheard during divorce. Up until this episode, the implications of the divorce on Joon-Soo has been talked about, more than  actually being explored. We barely see him much, but in this episode, the implications on him finally get explored and everything comes fast and furious. The episode begins with Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon engaging in tug-of-war over him at the start of the episode, then we learn of him being the subject of teasing in school and we see him struggling with boredom as Soo Yeon gets caught up in a project. After that, she gets called into office at late hours and she brings him along during which he ends up falling asleep and tarnishing a piece of work that needs to be sent for printing. As if all that is not bad enough, he then runs away after being scolded in search for his dad, where a motorcycle bangs into him, sending him to hospital with bandages over his head and his arm in a cast. I do not deny that I felt sorry for him and teared when hearing his speech in the hospital. However, was there really a need to play up the impact on the child in such an exaggerated, accelerated manner? It would have been better if this was explored over more episodes, showing his gradual realisation of his parents’ separation and how it was affecting it.

Secondly, there was an over-riding message through the episode that Hyun-Woo had missed critical moments where he could have redeemed his marriage, which is also reinforced by his meeting up with his ex. Before he hears of Joon-Soo going missing, he walks along the streets and he reflects on how he should have held her when he first learnt of her affair. The episode ends with her going over his forum messages, where the key moments of their confrontation were shown and Hyun-Woo saying that once again, like 15 years ago, he had missed the timing again. Isn’t that over-simplifying matters? While I don’t deny that timing is certainly key and that Hyun-Woo did screw up those key moments, aren’t there deeper issues at hand? Wasn’t the marriage already in jeopardy even before the whole affair came along? It seems like the show is driving us towards a reconciliation where Hyun-Woo finally seizes the moment and does the right thing at the right time.

Also, I found the forum being used as too convenient a tool for Soo Yeon to get insight into all that Hyun Woo was feeling. At the hospital, Joon-Young tells Soo Yeon to read the forum messages, because he read Hyun Woo’s messages from start till end and managed to see his sincerity shine through. Given that Hyun Woo’s meet up with his ex exposed his general cowardly and avoidant behaviour, it would have been a more meaningful story arc to witness him gain courage to express his feelings to her. Also, the whole issue of Soo Yeon’s anger at having their story splashed over the forums was certainly glossed over very quickly. Being such a private person, I would have expected her to have a bigger reaction, especially since the mums in Joon-Soo’s school were gossiping about it. Of course, Joon-Soo’s injury in this episode possibly caused all this to be forgotten, but I do hope this plot point is not lost and will be picked up subsequently.

Beyond what’s mentioned above, there’s still some good stuff going on in this episode, most of which is the light-hearted stuff. Firstly, we have Joon-Young and Bo-Young’s budding romance, which provides many humorous and cute moments. It was hilarious when Bo-Young was exposed as the student who was trying to negotiate for Bo-Young’s second hand household items. In fact, their relationship is the one bright spot in the world of this drama where almost every relationship is going downhill – and that includes those of the forum users. The three guys bonding after Hyun Woo’s divorce was very wacky and hilarious too, especially when all that Hyun Woo wanted to do was to play with the crane arcade game. It was also funny watching him hesitant and apprehensive over sending the message to his ex. These are the truly human moments that make Hyun Woo an more endearing protagonist amidst all his generally unpleasant treatment of Soo Yeon.

I continue to enjoy the intelligent moments of directing and editing in this show. I particularly enjoyed the “layering” that occurred in several scenes, especially the scene where we saw the video game ‘layered’ over Joon-Young and Bo-Young’s conversation in his place.

As the show starts to move towards its resolution, I hope it continues to display the same maturity and sensitivity that it did for the first half, because I’d much rather prefer a show that ends well than one which starts well.  There is potential for a very uplifting story here that will encourage married couples to reflect on their marriage and take active steps to maintain and keep the romance alive, amidst all the challenges of modern society.

My Wife is having an affair this week: Episode 7

Things are still not looking good for Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon and the prospect of them getting back together is a distant reality. Even though they finally have their first heart to heart conversation, it reveals that the issues between them are much deeper than just the affair and also how far apart they have grown. This show certainly isn’t one to settle for easy answers or reconciliations and with each episode, it just keeps digging deeper into issues of marriage, loyalty and women’s identity.

While Hyun Woo did display some growth in the previous episode by deciding to have a proper conversation with Soo Yeon, his perspective on what went wrong between them still hasn’t matured much. As shown in this episode, he is fixated on the affair and still fails to look beyond that into their marital issues. When Soo Yeon poses him a question of whether he has had an affair before, he is momentarily stumped and he asks all those around him if they think he’s had an affair before, admitting to Yoon-ki that he jumped a little at the question. While Yoon-ki is clear that he is cheating on Ara, Hyun Woo’s behaviour may be even worse than him because he is not even aware of his interactions with the opposite sex. He confesses to Yoon-ki and Joon Young that there have been three women that he took out for meals and drinks. He calls one of them cute, compares his relationship with the other one with Joon Young and Bo Young and he even went to a Busan film festival with the last one. All the while, he dismisses his interactions with these three women as “affairs”, but imagine how Soo Yeon would have responded if she had seen him?

While both Joon Young and Bo Young dismiss Hyun Woo’s examples as having an affair, it’s Bo Young who provokes Hyun Woo into deep thought when she says:

But whether it’s a man or woman, an affair is about giving the body and the mind. It’s not sleeping or physical contact, but it’s the step before getting there, isn’t it? Women consider it an affair from the mid-stage. – Bo Young

This leads Hyun Woo to realise that his previous behaviour may have constituted an affair, which I personally think it did. He’s no less guilty of having his heart roam from the marriage when compared to Soo Yeon. While Joon-ki’s interactions with the other women are purely physical, Hyun Woo’s interactions with the other women were emotional and intellectual – both of which constitute an affair. However, even when he finally apologises to Hyun Woo, there’s an element of denial as he says to her, “if that’s what you consider an affair, yes it means I had an affair”, instead of outright apologising for the affair.

He then goes on to ask her if she had an affair to take revenge for his affair, but he’s so far off from the truth. He even says that she’s been doing well as the perfect wife and mum and everyone’s been jealous of him. However, he fails to realise it’s precisely that pressure of maintaining her reputation as perfect wife, mum and career woman that caused her to become stretched so thin. The affair started when Sun-Woo gave her something that Hyun Woo never did – the gift of freedom. He gives her two hours that are wholly hers, so that she can finish a book in her handbag that she’s never been able to start. He also gives her the attention that she’s never had from Hyun Woo by observing something about her she’s never noticed.

Moving away from the show itself, I’d like to add that Soo Yeon’s situation is completely convincing and very real. Parenthood is an all-absorbing endeavour that requires so much of you – you completely lose any time for yourself and just doing something as simple as reading 30 pages of a book becomes a rare luxury. This is something I’ve experienced and also witnessed my wife going through. As husband and wife, we need to intentionally help to protect that sense of “thaselfhood” of each other by giving each other time to continue to pursue our own interests. Having walked the path myself, I completely understood what Soo Yeon was sharing.

While Soo Yeon’s story does not absolve her of any guilt, it’s clear by the end of her sharing that she is immensely sorry for what she has done. She keeps apologising, telling Hyun Woo that she should have gone to him first. Hyun Woo’s response to her story once again misses the mark completely, as he tells her this is what everyone goes through. However, this is evidently not the case for him as he has had the freedom to choose when he can pick up his kid and even gone on dinners and drinks with the women mentioned earlier. Sun-woo was very likely the only friend that Soo Yeon had, ever since they had kids. At the end of it, Soo Yeon says that she can no longer face Hyun Woo and she’s not sure it’s guilt. Yes, she’s right, it’s more complex than that. It’s emotional estrangement and distance – she should have told him how she felt, but from what we have witnessed, he shows no interest in genuinely understanding her situation, always imposing his understanding on her. It could also be physical withdrawal, as we’ve not witnessed a single hint of physical intimacy between the two of them. There’s also a sense of entrapment, because facing Hyun Woo again reminds her of all the roles she has to play to keep up that perfect image. There could also be betrayal, because Hyun Woo has not kept his promise made during the only sweet scene between them of the series so far, where he promised her that they will still make them to watch the stars even when the kid comes. It’s so multi-layered and complex and I applaud the show for laying bare all these issues that surface when couples grow apart.

The challenge I foresee for the show is how to tie all these emotional issues together in a satisfactory manner. And this is where I once again express my desire for the show to bring both of them together because divorce would really be the easy way out for the show as well. Getting both of them to divorce would mean the show does not have to resolve all the issues it has surfaced between Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon. It would be far more satisfactory and arguably even groundbreaking if the show chose to take the more meaningful route and show us how a couple can work through such issues. It would also be disappointing if they just came back together for the sake of Joo Soon and swept all their issues under the carpet, because we all know that that’s also a recipe for disaster. The show has done well so far in revealing all the issues leading to their distancing; it now has the challenging task of exploring the reconciliation process meaningfully.

Besides the main storyline, there’s also lots of entertaining and genuinely hilarious stuff going on between Joon Young and Bo Young and I really love the playful energy between the two. Bo Young is certainly growing to become my favourite character as she carries herself with such confidence and insight. I also enjoyed the witch-hunt to find out who exactly Tuna Mayo is, whom I’m still suspecting could be Bo Young, but the show may pull a surprise on us and it could also be one of Hyun Woo’s workers – I’m thinking it could be the girl whose words always get sped up into an incoherent screeching noise. Heh.

Yoon Ki’s storyline takes a slight shift in this episode as we start to see him suffering because of all his seemingly intelligent plans, becoming both physically and even emotionally battered by the end of the episode. At this point, we know Ara already knows of his cheating ways, hence her loading of hiking gear on him is definitely a deliberate move to get back at him. I’m still rather confused by how we are supposed to respond to their storyline, because it’s neither funny nor fully serious either. It would be nice if we had more clarity on where that story was heading.

On a final note, I would be completely shortchanging the episode if I didn’t highlight the strong production values and direction throughout. Two scenes particularly stood out for me. I loved the scene where Soo Yeon was leaving her father’s place and the camera managed to capture her expression while on the taxi with her dad’s face by the side while she was leaving. It was a very neat juxtaposition of expressions, showing how her heart broke as she thought about how her dad would respond to the divorce. On the other end of the spectrum, I really loved the typhoon hera sequence, which started from the camera zooming out from Yoon-ki’s hotel room to outer space and then to the movements in the clouds. It was so over the top and ridiculous, but really, so hilarious and ingenious.

Once again, another great outing by the series! I will truly miss this series once it’s over.