20140220_seoulbeats_secretloveaffairIn the last post, we discussed the plot and initial set-up of JTBC’s current Monday-Tuesday drama, Secret Love Affair. The drama set out with a slow pace and fascinating characters, which had many viewers curious to see more. As the drama is nearing its midway point, the pace has slightly increased and many things have happened during the last four episodes.

One of the central themes of these episodes is Oh Hye-won’s gradual realization that she is not as happy with her life as she might have thought. The emotions Oh Hye-won feels for Lee Sun-jae are gnawing away at the protective walls she had built around herself, and the pressure she is under at the Seohan Art Foundation and at home is finally catching up with her.

In an incredibly intense and beautifully acted scene in episode six, Oh Hye-won confesses to a friend: “My body starts drooping everywhere, and my heart has already become a speck of sand … I wonder if, only now, I’m trying to get back what I didn’t get to do back then.”

The main female lead is tired; tired of constantly being caught in the middle at work, tired of a merely convenient marriage, and tired of having to fight against her emotions for Lee Sun-jae. This disappointment with her life must be a burden for the character but it is a blessing for the drama. Finally, Oh Hye-won stops being purely diplomatic and, as she calls it, an “elegant slave”. She becomes braver, tests the waters for a possible promotion to being a CEO, and talks back to Seo Young-woo.

Motivated by his open adoration, Oh Hye-won also realizes what kind of power she has over Lee Sun-jae and begins to exercise it. While still unsure as to how she should react to his advances in the first episodes, the eighth episode finally brings what many viewers must have been waiting for. When Oh Hye-won visits her student’s apartment, their mutual attraction manifests itself physically as they sleep together for the first time.

The way this crucial scene is handled is unexpected and might be a letdown for those who began to watch the drama hoping for scandalous scenes. In a genius (and, considering the promos for this drama, slightly ironic) move, the viewer does not once see the couple “in the act”. Instead, there are static takes of different parts of the apartment, accompanied by a voice-over from the two lovers. Yet, this method manages to convey the intimacy and awkwardness of such a situation much better than a direct shot could have done.

20140409_seoulbeats_secret love affairOverall, the relationship of the two main characters so far has mainly taken place via indirect gestures. Important conversations are held via text messages, feelings are expressed by playing the piano rather than talking, and, until that moment in Lee Sun-Jae’s apartment, erotic encounters take place as they touch their piano keys rather than each other.

But, just as they have finally gotten close to each other, their relationship is threatened. Kang Joon-hyung, the husband, is the first to get wind of the affair. Yet he still doesn’t seem to want to believe what is happening as he does not yet confront his wife with the truth. From his point of view, it would be advisable not to wait too long as more and more people are growing suspicious of Oh Hye-won and Lee Sun-Jae’s closeness. It will be interesting to see how Park Da-mi will react once her suspicions are confirmed, and whether Seo Young-woo will find out and use this information against Oh Hye-won.

As this indicates, the politics at Seohan Art Foundation are still as complicated to maneuver as they were in the beginning. The way all of the people involved are playing this power game is gripping and provides a new dimension to each character. It would be great if the drama would focus on the everyday school life just as much as it does on the high-up politics, but maybe that is to come when Lee Sun-jae finally joins the school. Scenes featuring one pitiable female cello student in particular are provoking curiosity but so far this storyline is still being neglected.

20140409_seoulbeats_yoo ah in_kim hee aeApart from this, the drama has successfully maintained the tone with which it started out in the beginning. Once again, the long scenes solely accompanied by music stand out and seem like an interesting experiment for a Korean drama. They demand patience and focus from their audience, but especially such scenes as Lee Sun-jae’s audition are rewarding because they cement the bittersweet atmosphere in which the lovers’ relationship is forced to take place.

Watching the eighth episode, it almost feels like this will have been the highpoint of Oh Hye-won’s and Lee Sun-jae’s love story. Their laughter and amiable banter at the end of the episode are a stark contrast to the suspicion their closeness begins to raise among their environment. The viewer almost wants to shout at them to savor these moments, since things can only get worse from here on out. Once their romantic partners or colleagues find proof for the affair, life will be a lot more terrible and a lot less about love for the likeable cheaters.

(translation via VIKI; images via JTBC, Elle magazine)