It’s an episode of revelations, denials and threats – pretty much what you’d expect from a show called Secret. Yet there remains enough beneath the surface (of the plot and the characterisation) to keep me hooked… and salivating for more (and, let’s face it: a half-naked Ji Sung doesn’t hurt, either).
Recap: Episode 7
Min Hyuk watches over an unconscious Yoo Jung – who’s apparently collapsed due to exhaustion – and prods her to awaken, supposedly because tormenting her when she’s at less than full strength isn’t fun, and not at all because he cares, oh no.
Whilst tenderly dabbing at her face with a tissue, he realises the dichotomy between his words and his actions and storms off in disgust. This, of course, is when Yoo Jung opens her eyes, and it’s almost as if she was awake the entire time and simply waiting for him to leave.
In his car, he decides that watching a woman destroy herself because of him isn’t all that enjoyable after all. Whether that means he’s cancelling his torture sessions completely or simply deciding not to watch, I don’t know. (We are only halfway through the show, though. I’m just sayin’.)
Do Hoon interrupts yet another argument between his kind father and his shrewish mother and takes the opportunity to sow a few seeds. Namely: he’ll be quitting his job as a prosecutor and breaking up with Yoo Jung in favour of an as yet unnamed wealthy woman, who’ll set him up in the style to which he will become accustomed.
His father is aghast at the idea of Do Hoon throwing away his principles to protect the powerful few, while his mother’s eyes practically glow green at the thought of moneymoneymoney. When his father protests, Do Hoon cries that he’s done so much (read: betrayal, corruption, murder) in order to fulfil his father’s vicarious dreams, but in truth he has no power as a prosecutor and is far from righteous.
Se Yeon takes a meeting with Min Hyuk’s father and convinces him to sell her his shares in Min Hyuk’s hotel – they’re soon to be in-laws, aren’t they? – and on her way out, meets with the man himself. He hesitantly mentions the happenings of ‘that day’ and she lists a few offences for him to choose from: does he mean the song he didn’t listen to after she practiced for days without sleeping, the insincere proposal with the cheap ring, or the indignity of forcing her to sit beside the woman who killed his one true love?
She points out, quite reasonably, that his fixation on Yoo Jung has moved past a desire for revenge and into full-on obsession; even Ji Hee, the victim, would’ve had enough by now. That hits a little too close to home and he loses it and he shoves her against the bookcase lining the walls, yelling for her to stop talking. Their bodies are pressed together and she seems to almost revel in his anger – at least he’s exhibiting some form of passion towards her, even if it isn’t romantic in nature. Oh, honey, stop right there: that is a dangerous, dangerous road you’re on.
She somehow manages to pull a battered copy of Wuthering Heights from the bookshelf but, rather than hitting him with it, drops it at his feet with a warning: revenge rooted in love can have no happy ending.
Newly released from hospital, Yoo Jung wanders the streets, gazing down at her paid hospital bill. I’m going to assume she believes it was Do Hoon, because otherwise we’d surely have been given a stronger description than ‘some man’. She must go home at some point to pack, because when she shows up at Dan Bal’s place, it’s with bag in hand and that ever-present smile on her face.
Dan Bal reveals that she, too, has a son whom she’s determined to save from an unspecified disease. She realises a beat too late that perhaps talking about her own child is merely adding salt to the wound for Yoo Jung, but no, it’s totally okay! Yoo Jung is determined not to be sad anymore and instead to simply be thankful that she was given a chance to love and be loved by San. Which would be healthy, had it not been a mere few days since she first found out.
Next on her to-do list is a discussion regarding her debt with Min Hyuk (who does a hilarious about-face when he sees her… and is then forced to reverse it when he sees Se Yeon headed in his direction). It seems he’s taken on her debt and sidesteps the ‘why’ to gruffly point out that only the name of the debtee has changed. She gratefully promises to pay him back and begs him to leave the bakery unscathed. So, naturally, he threatens to raze it to the ground. Sigh.
Do Hoon discovers that finding a new job isn’t as easy as he’d first assumed, given how many lawyers are out there and his own less-than-sterling reputation in the field. Se Yeon finds him staring dolefully at one of her paintings and tells him that sometimes, rather than trying to correct a mistaken brushstroke, it’s easier to simply change the canvas. He sympathises, because it is, of course, a fitting metaphor for his current state of mind.
Yoo Jung, also on the hunt for a job, catches sight of Hye Jin, the woman who set her up as a child abuser in prison in exchange for her own freedom. She gives chase but loses the other woman when she crashes into the slowest cyclist in the world. The cyclist just so happens to be in the midst of delivering a massive stack of illegal leaflets and disappears when the police show up, conveniently leaving Yoo Jung to take the fall.
Naturally there’s only one cop who could possibly take her statement and it’s the same guy who arrested her the first time round. She insists on her innocence, which he finds laughable – after all, who’s going to trust the word of an ex-con?
Se Yeon and Do Hoon go out to dinner with two of her friends and though she’s clearly using him to try to make Min Hyuk jealous, she is genuinely touched by his description of their first meeting, more than three years earlier.
It’s a night for get-togethers, as Min Hyuk has a drink with his pal, wondering whether or not marrying Se Yeon is the right thing to do. His friend points out that it’s a good political match but, when he slyly asks if he should marry her instead, Min Hyuk is quick to warn him off. Neither man, it seems, is good enough for Se Yeon.
Nameless friend pouts and flounces off and Min Hyuk reaches into his pocket for a pack of cigarettes (in a K-drama? sacrilege.) and accidentally pulls out Yoo Jung’s contact information, which she’d handed to him earlier as proof that she’d pay back the money owed. He scoffs and sets the slip of paper on fire, cool as you please… until it actually starts to burn, at which point he panics and snuffs the flame. Ha.
As the evening progresses, Do Hoon becomes steadily drunker, at one point suggesting to Se Yeon that if she really wants to make Min Hyuk jealous, she’ll have to step up her game. It’s at this point that Yoo Jung telephones him to act as her guarantor. He traipses down to the police station, a little disgusted at the depths to which she’d sink to make a living. She protests but before she can explain, he hands her a business card for an organisation which rehabilitates ex-convicts and asks for a clean break – something she should understand, as the one who ended their relationship.
She takes a call from Min Hyuk, who demands her presence and then drunkenly flings his car keys at her. She hesitantly points out that, as someone convicted of a hit-and-run, her licence was revoked. So, fine, he’ll do the driving himself, then. She tries to get the car keys back from him, and there’s a lot of falling and panting, but it’s unfortunately not nearly as sexy as it sounds.
She stuffs him into a taxi cab where he falls asleep on her shoulder and though she keeps pushing him away, he keeps sliiiiiding back and it’s only when he’s literally lying in her lap that she gives up. However, she doesn’t know where he lives and he’s not exactly sober enough to tell her, so she takes him home.
Her home, that is.
Min Hyuk wakes up in a tizzy – he’s in a strange house, in a strange bed and he’s shirtless. The horror. His shock only increases when he discovers that the home he’s in is Yoo Jung’s and in his haste to get out Get Out GET OUT, he chokes on the breakfast she’s painstakingly prepared. It’s all been very slapsticky up to this point, but the mood sobers quickly enough when she laughs… and is warned not to do so again (i.e. not to be happy) in front of him.
Annnd we’re back to the funny, as Min Hyuk tears out of the house to tuck in his shirt. So it is that Yoo Jung, who’s realised he left his wallet behind, finds him with his hand down his pants, in a deserted alleyway, looking mighty suspicious.
In what seems like a horrible decision (for his soul, if not his career), Do Hoon takes the decision to blackmail Chairman Jo with the incriminating information he’s collected on K Group over the years. And what does he want in return for his silence and complicity? Why, a well-paid job with K Group, of course.
The Chairman’s right-hand man, Hyun Seok, applauds his ambition but warns him that no matter how hard he works, there’s only room for one man at the top of the pile and, for the president, that man will always be Min Hyuk.
He leaves Do Hoon with a cheerful smile that’s frankly chilling and a word of caution: as untrustworthy as the Chairman is, those who so thoroughly abandon their convictions (read: Hyun Seok and Do Hoon) are even worse. Well, that doesn’t sound ominous at all.
Unbeknownst to them, they have an eavesdropper: none other than Min Hyuk, though how much he actually heard is anyone’s guess.
It’s boring board meeting time and Se Yeon proves that she’s the most switched-on person in the room – a fact highlighted when Min Hyuk, as disinterested in the proceeds as the rest of us, decides to instead play with his phone and accidentally dials Yoo Jung, which is easy enough to do as he’s been staring at her phone number for the duration of the meeting.
Decision (of EVIL) made, Do Hoon puts on his snazzy watch and calls up Se Yeon for a congratulatory dinner, only to find his wooing plans thwarted when Min Hyuk invites himself along.
He isn’t subtle about his romantic interest in Se Yeon, which pricks Min Hyuk’s temper on a purely possessive ‘my toy, mine’ level, but also brings out the classist in him, as he declares that no matter how what Do Hoon does, no matter how hard he works, he’ll always be inferior.
Coolly, Do Hoon points out that nepotism is nothing to be proud of and when Se Yeon tries (halfheartedly) to calm things down, she only ends up aggravating the situation. Finally, Min Hyuk’s temper explodes all over the table, and he leaves in a huff.
She dazedly realises that he must have feelings for her after all, and compliments Do Hoon on his superior acting skills. But no, it’s not an act: he really has fallen for her. And with that shocking revelation, he downs the rest of his wine and leaves.
Min Hyuk decides to take out his aggression on Yoo Jung, and complains that the payment plan she’d handed him over breakfast is too drawn-out (thirty years, in her estimation, which, yowch). This is the perfect opportunity to needle her about having broken up with her loser boyfriend – because otherwise she’d have gone to him for the money – but Yoo Jung can’t handle her oppa being insulted and reveals that even after they’d broken up, he took her to the hospital, stayed by her side allll night and then didn’t tell her because he didn’t want her to feel indebted to him.
Ha, awesome. Min Hyuk can’t actually refute her claim without bringing up a few awkward questions and possibly revealing that he – gasp, shock – maybe kind of cares about her, so he’s left to stew in his own impotent juices as she showers Do Hoon with praise.
That’s the last straw for Min Hyuk, who decides that Do Hoon is going down.
Whilst Yoo Jung is helping one of her prison friends sell imitation bags, they’re called over to Jo manor by stepmama In Joo, who recognises her as the woman responsible for pawning the custom-made engagement ring. Things are not going well for Yoo Jung, but luckily (?) Min Hyuk suddenly appears to defend her (because it’s fine when he insults her, but others doing the same thing is just beyond the pale). He drags her off by the hand, but not before pointing out that In Joo is the blackest pot in the room, what with being a gold-digging opportunist and all.
As she’s being yanked through the house, Yoo Jung tries to explain that, no, she really wasn’t stalking him, but he’s in no mood to listen. A chance run-in with Do Hoon gives Min Hyuk the opportunity to rub their joined hands in his face (metaphorically speaking); Do Hoon isn’t pleased, but can do nothing but watch the two walk off together.
Min Hyuk drops the job switcheroo bombshell on her and watches closely, prodding her when she seems shocked by the news. She’s saved from having to answer his pointed questions about her relationship with Do Hoon when her prison unni calls and races off, relieved.
… Only to be dragged off again, this time by Do Hoon. He berates her for continuing to associate with Min Hyuk and confirms that yes, he did join K Group, but not because he wanted to or anything. Mm-hmm, you keep telling yourself that, Do Hoon.
As she’s despondently making her way home, she once again catches sight of Hye Jin – but this time she chases after the woman with a single-minded determination. Hye Jin claims she’s not going to run (any more) and sticks her chin out for the hit she knows is coming. Distraught, Yoo Jung wonders bitterly if that’ll bring her baby back; she hits Hye Jin over and over again before demanding to know the reason why.
Hye Jin hadn’t known about San’s death and claims that she’d thought the boy would be okay – all she’d been told to do was ensure Yoo Jung wasn’t paroled. Upon hearing that, she remembers Min Hyuk’s threats and concludes that he was the one responsible for San’s death.
Do Hoon returns home to find that Min Hyuk has sent him a gift and it must be something shocking, because his face pales and his hand shakes. He drops the gift and… it’s the Polaroid Min Hyuk has been hanging on to, the one of Do Hoon and Yoo Jung in happier days. Ohhh.
So now Do Hoon knows that Min Hyuk is aware of his connection to Yoo Jung, but what does that really mean? He’s already fully aware that Min Hyuk has been manipulating him, and now knows that whatever is going on between Min Hyuk and Yoo Jung (at least in front of Do Hoon) is a deliberate ploy to discomfort him.
To me, it seems a bit short-sighted on Min Hyuk’s part, to give up such a delicious meal of slow, torturous vengeance for a moment of petty satisfaction. Either the drama is trying to prove that Min Hyuk really isn’t one for careful forethought and planning, or he has something else up his sleeve.
I kind of hope it’s the former, because that adds another dimension to a man who (mistakenly) sees himself as this all-seeing, all-knowing puppetmaster – when, really, he hasn’t done very much in the way of retaliation.
I do find all of the characters (who are deeply flawed, with the possible exception of Yoo Jung – unless her extreme martyrdom can be considered a flaw. and I believe it can.) and their interwoven relationships interesting and at least realistically complicated, if not actually realistic in a this-could-happen-in-real-life sense.
Min Hyuk and Se Yeon’s relationship, for example, which I had at first written off as unrequited love on her end and total disinterest on his, is actually more complex, in that he does seem to genuinely care for her. True, it’s more a brotherly fondness than the romantic love she’s after, but it’s real, and you get the sense that he regrets not being able to return her affections.
Of the four characters, I actually find Se Yeon to be the most… if not likeable, exactly, then at least the most relatable person in the drama. She seems to be the only one behaving with a modicum of sense – everyone else is either a martyr, or borderline psychotic. And unlike our hapless heroine, she at least respects herself enough not to take anyone’s crap – and to give back as good as she gets.
Do Hoon, on the other hand, is the weakest and least pitiable of the leads. He’s the sort of immature person who cannot take responsibility for his actions and, likewise, his own failings – everything is either someone else’s problem or someone else’s fault. And while there are always factors at work and circumstances beyond your control, at some point you have to accept that you do have agency over your own life and can (and should) be held accountable. Whether or not Do Hoon will ever come to this realisation, however, remains to be seen.