TL;DR: We got our answers! \o/ ALSO, warning for domestic violence and talk of suicide in this episode.
Even though Hong-hee’s story was fairly easy to guess, that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking to listen to when she finally told it. A young, single mother, leaving her family behind when they disapproved of her choice to have her child, drifting from place to place and hardship to hardship until she found a man who treated her well—most of the time. It was so painful to hear her say that the beatings he gave her were the price of having a stable home and a normal life, and that what finally gave her the push she needed to try to leave was when he hurt Soo-jin.
Emphasis on try. It had never occurred to me that her boyfriend chopped off her finger as punishment for trying to leave; I’d just assumed something went down in prison. But no, the man hacked off her finger because she tried to run away. Hong-hee knew afterwards that there was absolutely no way they could be safe with him, and the chances of them escaping him were next to none. So she did whatever it took to kill him. Contrary to the narrative we might want, killing him to protect herself and Soo-jin didn’t give Hong-hee a fairytale-like rush of joy. Hong-hee was left wounded in every sense of the word, to the point she considered drowning with Soo-jin. But because Soo-jin said she wanted to live, Hong-hee pulled herself together long enough to take Soo-jin to an orphanage so she could be free to have a new life.
(I’m glad Hong-hee said she didn’t regret killing him, for the record. If ever there was a murder I could get behind in a drama, this would be it.)
The one thing that really struck me during Hong-hee’s story was how she finally was able to find a new purpose in her life once she saw the documentary and got proof that Soo-jin really was living a new, better life. Soo-jin was alive and hadn’t forgotten her, and that meant that maybe, someday, Hong-hee would have the chance to help Soo-jin like she felt she should have as a mother. Then Soo-jin walked back into her life with a daughter of her own and in need of help, and for a little while, at least, Hong-hee was able to provide that help.
I hope this isn’t the last we see of Hong-hee, but even if it is, I think this episode got closure for Soo-jin and was a fitting send-off for Hong-hee.
I still don’t quite believe that Hyun-jin is capable of keeping a secret of such magnitude from her mother, but to be fair, she basically hid and didn’t talk to anyone except to call Soo-jin out. Also, I suppose it’s the difference between a “good” secret that she doesn’t agree with keeping silent about and a “bad” secret that absolutely requires as few people as possible to learn about it. Honestly, I hadn’t considered the ripple effects for Soo-jin’s family if she were caught kidnapping a child, but it’s true that Hyun-jin and Yi-jin’s husband would experience massive professional issues, and Yeong-sin, Yi-jin, and the twins could have some serious social fallout. (Yeong-sin—maybe professional issues? But honestly, she doesn’t need to earn more money; she can survive on her already accumulated wealth.)
Yi-jin, though. *sighs* I wish we had more than a few scenes exploring her jealousy/her feelings of being unappreciated because I would be far more forgiving of her bulldozering her way into Soo-jin’s secrets then. As it is, she comes across as frustratingly petty. There’s a better story here, one where she is the middle daughter who stepped up and accepted the eldest daughter’s role in the household, did everything her mother wished, and still ended up feeling like she was always second-best to a sister who disappeared and reappeared in their lives at random and took all of her mother’s attention.
I would much rather have a fuller exploration of Soo-jin’s relationship with her sisters rather than her sisters just serving as obstacles to her story. There’s potential here, and I can’t help but feel like they’re wasting it right now.
In contrast, I love basically every scene with Hye-na. The things she wants are so heartbreakingly normal: to go to kindergarten, to be pretty like her “cousin,” to learn, and to have a large and loving family. I think Soo-jin is a wonderful parent for continuing to ask Hye-na what it is that she wants. Soo-jin can’t give Hye-na everything—they are, after all, still on the run—but she can allow Hye-na the freedom of some choices, like taking the entrance exam. Whenever Soo-jin offers Hye-na a chance to pick something for herself, it makes me really happy, because Hye-na didn’t have much control over her own life before then. A+ job parenting, Soo-jin.
In less happy news, Seol-ak continues to menace, the unnamed elderly lady told the police about seeing Hye-na with Soo-jin, and Ja-young beat them all to finding Hye-na right outside of Yeong-sin’s home. I suppose that’s a fitting end for the midpoint of the show, but it just about gave me palpitations. How are they going to be able to get out of this? Are they going to be able to get out of this? Guess I’ll have to watch the next episode.
By the Numbers
- Recordings: 1
- Bribes offered: 1
- Dramatically presented papers: 2
- Bechdel Test: 8 episodes passed