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.

Personal Reflections

A few weeks ago, I read an article on TIME about bibliotherapy, where instead of diagnosing patients with medication, there are bibliotherapists who suggest certain books to patients to help them with issues they are facing.

When reading that article, the first thought that came to mind that certainly there could be ‘drama-therapy’ too, where therapists diagnose their patients to watch certain dramas with similar ends in mind. I’ve certainly found this to be a strength of k-dramas, which generally have a positive view of the world and are geared towards celebrating the good in life. While I generally take a more objective perspective in my reviews, this entry will be more personal and reflective. The dramas I’ve been following lately have provoked much thought on certain issues:

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim

As the storyline develops, it’s clear that the series is keen to portray Dong Joo as a medical professional who’s done well in his examinations and is in all senses a good doctor. However, the way he treats his patients is largely professional and distant. He is chided by Master Kim, an experienced doctor, as being “insincere”, which we also clearly see being played out as his focus is on building his specialisation, career advancement and seeing each patient as a case, rather than relating to them as a life to be saved.

Viewing Dong-Joo led me to also think about my own professional role as an educator, where I may also have committed similar “errors” as Dong-Joo in being overly distant and “professional” in discharging of my duties. Instead of imbuing more humanity in my role, I’ve seen every situation faced in terms of issues to be resolved and the best way to do things. I’ve thought about educators which I looked up to and I realise that one thing that characterises them is their heart for education and students, not so much their intellect. This also reminded me of what I read from Parker Palmer years ago, that teaching is the only job that demands so much from within us, from our inner selves. I’ve thus been thinking about how I can be a more ‘human’ professional when I return.

The K2

Viewing the storyline of Yoo Jin’s downfall is a good reminder of the importance of decisions and choices. When she speaks of her decision to ignore Anna’s mum’s plea for help, she says she “obeyed the commands of the devil within me”. Her choice at that moment led to her descent into evil for the rest of her life, a choice that bothered her all the way till death.

Cliched as it may sound, we are constantly making choices to obey certain “voices”, whether it’s that of our conscience, or that of what the world demands of us. As a Christian, it’s a choice between God’s word and the devil. While we may not have faced as pivotal decisions as Yoojin that pertain to murder, we do make choices everyday about whether to listen to God or to the devil. It may be a choice of whether to bless someone or stay in our comfort zone, or whether to share the gospel with others or to stay silent. As these choices ultimately determine whether a person comes to believe in Christ, we can say these are “life or death” choices as well. Yoo Jin’s downfall also revealed that we should never downplay any decision that we make, no matter how small they are. The wrong path is often a result not just of one huge, bad decision, but a series of small, wrong decisions.

My Wife is Having an Affair This week

This has to be the most powerful drama I’ve watched in a while and the forums certainly reflect this. While k-drama forums are usually platforms for fangirling or criticism of the plot or characterisation, the forums discussing this show have been intensely personal, with forum users sharing their personal stories of marriage, adultery, forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s been a very different experience as forum users debate over the possibility of marriage after an affair and the challenges of marriage.

Viewing the marriage of Hyun-Woo and Soo-Yeon makes it clear that their marriage was afflicted by communication issues, even before Soo-Yeon cheated on her husband. The affair itself wasn’t the problem of the marriage; the problem was the marriage itself which had suffered from neglect over the years.

This is an important truth that all married couples need to take note of, especially as kids come along. The interactions between Hyun-Woo and Soo-Yeon had been reduced to discussions over picking up the kid and child-care arrangements. We don’t get a single conversation between them about their days, their feelings and their challenges. It’s a marriage that has grown cold over the years. It’s led me to reflect on my own marriage, that even in the midst of tending to two kids, it’s important to focus on my relationship with my wife and never to let the marriage grow cold.

This drama would certainly be one worth using for ‘drama-therapy’, to help couples facing difficulties reflect on their marriage. Of course, there would need to be someone to help focus on the key issues but that’s no different from a book, which is also subject to different interpretations. Who knows, perhaps “drama-therapy” would one day be an established field of treatment as well? 🙂

My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week: Episode 5

“Thinking about it, there seems to be no definite perpetrator or victim. You know, there’s a thing called willful negligence. Even knowing that their marriage will be in danger going on like this, there are many couples that don’t put in effort.” – Bo Young

Wow, this show really means business.

It takes a serious topic and is unafraid to delve into the darkest, most provocative corners of it, evoking such deeply personal responses and reflections. When the episode ended, I just paused and contemplated over what I had observed. I even had a conversation with my wife about how we would handle it if either one of us had an affair. Many K-dramas have elicited emotional reactions from me, but none have hit so close to heart as this one.

In this episode, Hyun Woo further descends into anger, despair, loss and pain. He confronts Sun-woo three times, but it’s only in the third that he  musters up the courage to punch him and take revenge by calling Sun-woo’s wife and breaking the news of his adultery to her. This is triggered by Sun-woo’s acceptance of Hyun Woo’s friend request on Facebook, allowing Hyun Woo to see the admiration he receives on Facebook for his beautiful family life. It’s not pretty at all and there’s no attempt to glorify his actions. He does this not because of any noble reason to ensure the wife is not kept in the dark. It is because he hates it that he’s the only one affected by what has happened. It’s unfair that Hyun Woo can retain his happy family whereas his is destroyed. His rage has blinded him to any form of reason; but really, what would a reasoned reaction to being cheated look like? Would a rational reaction be the right kind of reaction?

With Soo Yeon, Hyun Woo is dismissive, curt and explosive. Divorce keeps getting mentioned. He cuts her off when she tries to explain herself. He refuses to accept any of her explanations. He accuses her, calling her the aggressor and him the victim. He blasts her for destroying what they had together.

It’s not possible to say that Hyun Woo’s reactions were wrong; all that I can say is that I would not have reacted the same way as him, because of our different personalities. But I found it difficult to judge him and wonder if I might have reacted in the same way if the same thing happened to me. Having gone through marriage preparation courses and also spoken to friends who are marital counsellors, I know in my mind that divorce shouldn’t be the first option and that the couple should sit down and work things out. The right thing to do would be to exercise mercy and forgiveness, re-examine the marriage, rebuild the trust and move towards reconciliation. But in a way, Hyun Woo’s reactions aren’t wrong either. He’s angry – his wife has betrayed him after 15 years of marriage, and in doing so, also affected their child. Regardless of Soo Yeon’s reasons, her actions have been detrimental to their marriage in a major way. Whether it ultimately does destroy their marriage is a decision both of them have to make and it will be a heartbreaking, difficult journey.

We finally get a more insightful glimpse into Soo Yeon’s perspective in this episode and the most evident point is how isolated and lonely she is. Unlike Hyun Woo who has a band of brothers and a relatively close group of colleagues at work, Soo Yeon’s work environment is cold and distant. She struggles as a working mum, with pressures from both her boss and subordinates. On the home front, she’s working hard too to ensure the best for her son and has to network to negotiate a place for her son in an art class, following which she’s swamped by messages from fellow mums. While we see her perspective, the show ensures that we empathise with her, without necessarily sympathising with her. It’s clear she has done wrong, regardless of her circumstances and how she feels. Throughout the episode, she keeps insisting that this affair is something just between the two of them, but it really isn’t. She’s clearly repentant and wants to make the marriage work, but there’s no way to talk about doing so now, when Hyun Woo is so enraged. The next episode will explore the fall-out further and the show clearly isn’t allowing her to get off scot-free, making her confess the truth to Hyun Woo’s mum – something that Hyun Woo himself has not contemplated.

The show manages to balance the intensity of Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s storyline with the antics of Hyun Woo’s production team as well as scenes of Joon Ki’s philandering ways. I do hope the show is going somewhere with Joon Ki’s storyline as it’s getting increasingly ridiculous and no longer funny to see Ara being played around with in such a brutal, callous manner. I did not find any of the Joon Ki sequences funny at all in this episode. However, the Bo Young and Joon-Young storyline fares much better and we finally see the truth behind Joon-Young’s marriage, that his wife left him three days after they got married, which also opens a new angle on this show’s already very competent exploration of difficult issues in marriage.

It’s refreshing to see a drama take such a hard look at a difficult yet real topic in our society today, which seems to be worsening. Dramas like these are much needed and can be potentially powerful to help married couples talk through difficult issues. At this point, my personal wish is for the show to take a more hopeful, redemptive route and show us how Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon eventually work things out and redeem their marriage.

My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week: Episode 4

This was a good episode. I haven’t decided whether to follow this series, but if it’s consistently delivering episodes of such quality, then I’m definitely on board till the end. While we do have significant developments plot-wise in this episode, I’d like to start off by highlighting the outstanding production-related aspects of the show.

One thing I enjoy tremendously is the wacky, playful use of camera angles throughout. Director Kim Seok-yoon certainly has a lot of fun placing his cameras at the most quirky places, especially within Hyun Woo’s home. In the previous episode, we had a lovely shot of Hyun Woo from within the helium balloons pointing downwards, with the red balloons framing Hyun Woo’s head. In this episode, we get the camera coming from behind the shelves, from the corridor between the rooms and there’s an interesting frame where the entire frame is dark with Hyun Woo in the shadow except for a spot of light behind him shining on their wedding photograph. Within the confined space of the home, the camera is placed as far as possible from Hyun Woo to make him appear small, signifying how his status within the home has been diminished upon discovering the affair. The constant shifting of angles reinforce his sense of disorientation and loss. It’s such attention to detail that makes the show a delight to watch.

I also liked how food and eating is used as a reflection of the characters and relationships. We get many scenes of our characters having eating. Soo Yeon is often shown setting the table and preparing food, while Hyun Woo and their son dine at the table. Their meals are elaborate, with rice and several dishes as well as a soup or stew. Scenes of their family dining always focus on the three of them and not the individual food items, reinforcing how it’s a communal experience. The warmth and busy-ness that characterises these scenes stand in stark contrast to the scenes when Hyun Woo is alone at home, either with cake splattered all over or drinks on the floor. As for Ah-ra and Yoon-ki, their meals are either in classy restaurants with well-plated cuisine or at home with meticulously prepared one-pot meals. In the scenes of them dining, Ah-ra always takes a picture of the food to post on Instagram, but never of her and Yoon-ki eating together. For the home-cooked meals, we see Ah-ra painstakingly preparing the meals and setting the table alone, while waiting for Yoon-ki to return. They may be dining together, but it certainly is a sterile and cold experience. Then we have Bo Young, who after her divorce no longer bothers to cook meals and explores the range of instant foods available. Eating is a solitary affair for her, merely to fill the tummy, yet she also uses food to convey her concern for others, buying an additional tuna samgak-kimbap for Hyun Woo in this episode – which leads him to suspect she is Tuna Mayo.

Beneath all these stellar production values is also a set of storylines that are developing well. Besides the big revelation of Soo Yeon’s affair, we also see some development in the Bo Young & Joon Young as well as Ah-ra & Joon-Ki’s relationships plus suspicions of Bo-Young being poached. I appreciated how the episode managed to balance all these different storylines together, moving between them seamlessly.

I’m glad we finally see some comeuppance for Joon-Ki who gets horribly tormented when he decides to join a fitness club to leer at the instructors. I do honestly get very uncomfortable watching the scenes of his philandering ways because he truly shows completely no respect to his wife by flirting right in front of her. Hence, I was gleefully laughing at the scenes of him being tortured. He truly deserves it. Bo Young also gets some well-deserved screen time too, beyond just being someone who provides advice. While the dynamics between her and Joon Young are funny, I really hope we get more insight into Joon Young’s marriage. Credits to BoA for playing Bo-Young’s post-divorce state so well and I did feel happy to see her dressing up and going on a blind date.

And last but not least, we finally have the confrontation between Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon, which was mostly well-played. While we found out about the affair, we do not find out very much more, because Hyun Woo is unable to calm himself down when talking to Soo Yeon, which causes her to clam up further. Although Soo Yeon has certainly betrayed Hyun Woo, she deserves a smidgen of credit for her honesty, when she told Hyun Woo that she won’t see the man “for now” and that she missed him. Hyun Woo wavers back and forth on whether to divorce her or not. While on his own and with the Internet forum uses, he’s composed and rational, able to formulate a step-by-step plan and work through his thoughts. However, in front of her, he cannot control his anger, and what starts off as a calm attempt to get her to tell the truth ends up once again with him shouting and losing control.

The forum community plays an important role in Hyun Woo’s journey here and he makes a post whenever he reaches a significant emotional “milestone”, with the final post of the episode being him losing his precious.  To say that the community provides “support” is over-stating it, because the forum posters who provide advice are not truly concerned for him. They are excited and all abuzz over this sensational story that’s happening, but not really for his welfare and his future. This is reinforced by the scene where Hyun Woo walks alone in a crowd of people who are all looking down at their phones, connecting to the forum but not even looking up at him.

Lee Sun-kyun certainly puts in a good performance as Hyun Woo which has been consistent over the past four episodes. His facial expressions and body language are just spot on and even when he is angry and shouting at Soo Yeon, we sympathise with him because we know that anger comes from a mix of disappointment, hurt, fear and brokenness. I’m hoping to see more from Song Ji-hyo though, who thus far has been alright, but we still don’t get enough of her perspective and her emotions. Now that the adultery has come to light, I’m hoping we will get more of a female-voice on the whole matter. Based on the previews for next week, we see Hyun Woo confronting the man and while that’s an interesting turn of events, I do hope Soo Yeon’s voice is not sidelined for too long.

It’s always rewarding to watch a series that has been thoughtfully put together. There’s so much to think about and reflect on, especially for married couples. This is truly a refreshing change from the many other K-dramas I’ve viewed this year!

My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week: Episode 3

It’s always good when a drama series causes you to pause and reflect, because it explores such real and serious issues. This could also ironically be the reason why this series may never eventually have high ratings, but I would certainly say that this can be used for marriage enrichment programmes to highlight important things that married couples should think about.

In my review last week, I mentioned that one of the signs of Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon’s marriage falling apart was their lack of honesty with each other and how Hyun Woo chooses to talk to everyone about his wife’s affair instead of asking her directly. This week’s episode offers different perspectives on this, which causes me to empathise with his hesitation.

This episode juxtaposes three characters – Bo Young, Ara and Hyun Woo; all of whom respond differently to their suspicions of their spouses’ affairs.

Bo Young chooses to evade the truth, and builds a wall around her heart to prevent herself from getting hurt. She doesn’t ask her husband about it and eventually ends the marriage, choosing instead to run away from the truth. Ara, on the other hand, acts on her suspicions and checks in on Joon Ki in this episode to verify the truth. While taking so many steps to catch him, it seems as if she is relieved that she has not caught him. To her, the fact that Joon Ki puts in effort not to be caught is a sign that that he still loves her. Hyun Woo shares at the start of the episode that as much as he wants to barge into the hotel to confront Joo Yeon, he is fearful and anxious when he thinks about what will happen next, especially for their son Joo Soon.

Common across all three characters is the fear of confirming their suspicions and confronting the implications. Credit has therefore to be given to the series for being intelligently set up to allow us to see how difficult such a confrontation will be, without actually having to put our main characters through it yet. This is done through the couple whose adultery is captured on film and they have the most uncomfortable conversation ever. The wife brutally tells her husband that there was no reason for her affair – it was just because she loved the man and even more devastatingly, she confesses that she doesn’t need a child and hates the child for looking after her husband.

The matter of simply confronting the truth isn’t simple at all. Once the spouse has been exposed, things become more difficult because the couple now has to confront hard truths and for couples who have been together for a long time, such confrontation involves exposing lies that may have been built up over many years. After such confrontation, then comes the difficult discussion on what to do next, which becomes more complicated when children are involved. Is confrontation the spouse really the best thing to do then? In theory it is, but in reality? There are no easy answers.

While there are no easy solutions, there certainly is no shortage of possible solutions as we see the multitude of opinions that flood in from the forums as well as from Joon-young and Yoon-ki. It’s comforting to see that Hyun-Woo has no shortage of friends who are true brothers-in-arms, always ready to extend a helping hand and even act like a sissy so as to help their friend uncover the truth about his wife’s affair. As for the forum community, I’m not exactly sure where the writers are heading with this, except to display the confusion that can arise when one seeks advice from the Internet. This really isn’t an uncommon phenomenon, though from my observation, it’s usually the women who seek help on such forums and the portrayal in the series is genuine indeed. There are indeed a multitude of opinions coming in, to provide support and solutions. For now, what I see the series doing is emphasising how each voice on the forum arises from different circumstances and settings and hence not always reliable.

Besides the forum, the other “construct” that the series uses to explore the issue of adultery is the TV show that Hyun Woo’s team is producing. Besides what was earlier mentioned, the production of this TV show is put to very intelligent use in this episode as the interview of the man is intercut deftly with responses from Hyun Woo, as if both of them are being interviewed at the same time. The editing was perfect and put to great effect here to show how both Hyun Woo and the man’s situations are similar and they both seek solace in a community that is “distanced” from them, either from an Internet community or a TV production team.

While the series has generally been solid thus far in exploring its themes and also in terms of its production value, I do hope the show can work on also making itself more compelling. I did find certain portions of the episode rather dull, perhaps because this episode’s main focus was on Hyun-Woo and Soo Yeon’s relationship without significant progression in the other relationships, which was unlike the first two episodes. There was also less comedic energy in this episode, possibly because we are now moving into more serious territory where the truth will be uncovered. I foresee that the ‘seriousness’ of the series will increase as we progress through the episodes and it will becoming increasingly challenging for the show to maintain its light-hearted tone. Nonetheless, if it does that well, that will be a true feat and prove that a series can explore a serious issue without taking itself too seriously.

My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week – Episode 2

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In this episode, we get more hints that Soo-yeon is possibly cheating on Hyun-Woo, but still no confirmation. Hyun-Woo even deletes the email from the investigation agency. However, to some extent, whether Soo Yeon is having an affair or not doesn’t really matter. What this episode reveals is that there are some deep-seated issues in their marriage that need to be resolved and this is something I’m coming to appreciate about this show – it shows us the problems, instead of telling us.

The tell-tale signs of a marriage falling apart are all there. Hyun-Woo and Soo Yeon barely communicate, except about childcare arrangements. When he talks to her, she’s busy checking her phone, replying him in a very disengaged manner. There’s clearly a lack of intimacy between them as we always get scenes of either one of them sleeping with their son, but never sleeping in the same room. Their wedding anniversary means little to both of them and if not for his sister in law’s reminder, Hyun-Woo would have forgotten, hence his reaction to Soo Yeon forgetting their anniversary is unwarranted. The most important warning sign is the complete lack of honesty and fear of confrontation from Hyun-Woo – rather than directly asking about what he witnessed, he gets suspicious and contemplates the divorce option without thinking about how to work things out. He speaks to everyone and even hires an investigator when what he should have done is simply talk to her. It’s always a sign of a marriage falling apart when couples cannot confront thorny issues or have difficult discussions together. Even if Hyun-Woo does discover in the next episode that Soo Yeon is not having an affair, there’s still lots to work on in their marriage and I have some confidence the series will handle that well, given how it’s handled the depiction of their marriage thus far.

Another relationship I find particularly interesting is that between Joon-young and his wife, who has remained largely off-screen thus far. We get hints of problems in their marriage, but it’s never outrightly displayed. As the only one who’s been cheated on and divorced, Bo-young seems to be the voice of wisdom in the show and she can see immediately the problems when Joon-young says his wife isn’t bothered by his spending and that they don’t fight. The issue with both Joon-young and Hyun-Woo’s marriages is not that anybody has done anything wrong (yet), it is that nobody is doing the right things, which has resulted in their marriages growing cold.

It has been commented in several blogs, articles and forum posts that adultery is a very weighty topic and to choose the mode of a comedy to handle it is strange. However, in this episode, the use of comedy allows the show to make very controversial statements and explore this sensitive issue without being offensive. While there might be guys out there like Yoon-Ki, his character is so over the top that we know he’s not meant to convey the writer’s views on adultery. With that established, he is then used to amplify the extent to which men will go to engage in and hide their affairs. The scene with him talking to Bo-young and Joon-young about the tell tale signs of cheating is hilarious, made even more so because of the on-screen visuals which were brilliant! His wife, Ara, gets similar over-the-top treatment when we see how her suspicion manifests itself. Nonetheless, the series needs to handle the comedic elements very carefully. I found myself slightly disturbed by the scene with Yoon-ki deliberately ignoring his messages while Ana was around, fearful of whether it came from his lover. This could be a very common and real scenario encountered by couples with philandering partners, yet I wondered if we were supposed to be laughing at it. Overall though, I still think the show has handled the comedic elements well and even when not outrightly comedic, it explores serious issues (e.g. what constitutes cheating) in a light-hearted manner, which is conveyed sometimes very intelligently  through the camera angles.

One really nice touch about the show is its portrayal of the world of social media. We see Facebook, Instagram, web chats (with its multiple emoticons) and the world of internet forums. It continually juxtaposes the real world with social media postings, which is a fascinating exploration of the “unreality” of social media yet how we’ve grown to rely on it because of the anonymity and sense of artifice it can provide. While the seriousness and the “reality” of the topic of adultery does not allow the show to be too creative in terms of plot twists and cliffhangers, there’s no lack of creativity throughout in the direction and production of the show.

Ultimately, the second episode is certainly a step in the right direction and I’m keen to see what happens next. However, if there’s one thing I hope the show will go on to explore, that will be the “female” voice in all this. Thus far, we’ve predominantly seen the “male” perspective on adultery and heard the men’s views on this. I certainly hope we hear more from the wives in subsequent episodes. Not forgetting too the child’s voice in all this, as whenever adultery and divorce happens, it’s the child that suffers the most and we’re already seeing signs of Hyun-Woo’s son being affected by the tension between his parents.

My Wife is Having an Affair This Week – Premiere

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Almost all the K-drama I’ve watched so far have always focused on the “falling in love” phase of relationships, which I believe is a common trend with dramas in general. Hence, “This Week My wife Will Have an Affair” is timely as I was keen to watch a drama that explores relationships in the context of marriage.

Based on a Japanese drama in 2007 with a similar title and also a true story, the premise of the show is simple enough and the premiere sets it out well. At its centre is Do Hyun-Woo (played by Lee Sun-Kyun) who discovers his wife, Soo Yeon (played by Song Ji-hyo) is possibly seeing someone else after they have been married for 8 years. This pushes him to go online to seek help from forums. Besides them, we have Joon Young (played by Lee Sang Yub) who is married, but flirting with Bo-Young (played by Boa) who has just come out of a divorce. We also have Yoon-Ki (played by Kim Hee-won) who plays a husband so skilled in his philandering ways that he teaches Hyun-Woo how to ensure his wife won’t be suspicious of his cheating ways. This is South Korea now, after the law against adultery was abolished (mentioned by Yoon-Ki) and now, it seems like adultery is common place. Although the drama certainly exaggerates matters, it may not be too far off from the truth as it was reported in the press that sales for condoms shot up following the abolishing of the law.

After watching several crime or action-focused dramas, I appreciated the dose of reality where we saw a married couple handling day to day matters like the picking up of the kids, bathing of kids, juggling of work/family commitments. While Hyun-Woo has the impression that his marriage is solid and he is a good husband, there lacks a certain intimacy in their interactions, which have almost become “business-like”, which is not uncommon in marriages. In fact, the problems may have begun as early as when they were married as the video of their marriage shows them hesitant to kiss, even on their wedding day. Later, when asked for the reasons for her divorce, Bo-Young shares with Hyun-Woo that she simply fell out of love with her husband and when things become too comfortable, that’s where the marriage falls apart. What I really liked was how true all these points are, especially from my interactions with marriage counsellors both personally and in my professional work. I’d be keen to see how the show proceeds to explore these issues.

Unlike other plot-driven dramas, I liked how the premiere focused instead on the internal world of Hyun-Woo – his thoughts, his suspicions, his confusions and the cacophony of “voices”. I appreciated the nice balance of comedy and seriousness when exploring this too. While we have no confirmation yet of his wife’s affair, it seems almost likely because for her not to be having an affair would compromise most of what was established in the premiere. Even if she hasn’t started having an affair, I believe she may at this point be considering one. While Hyun-Woo’s story was the main one, the show also deftly introduces and establishes the other relationships sufficiently, such that within the first hour we have a clear picture of where each male protagonist is in his/her marriage.

I have not decided if I’ll be following this series till the end, but I’m definitely keen to see how the next few episodes play out before I proceed further. Two key things I hope the drama will explore in more seriousness is what led to the relationship falling apart and the dynamics of the internet community. Nonetheless, this is a good start.