We rewind to the past in this episode, right before tragedy struck and irrevocably changed the lives of our main characters forever. Believe it or not, our beloved Hwan-ki had many reasons to smile then, thanks to a special someone who boosted his esteem and gently reminded him of his potential. For once, he felt safe and at ease, and what a difference a trustworthy friend makes.
EPISODE 5: “Three Years Ago, the Secret I Couldn’t Reveal”
Ji-hye waits expectantly at a cafe and stands when Hwan-ki, in his usual hooded getup, arrives with a bouquet. Omg is this a date?! He smiles timidly and hands it to her, and she happily accepts. Aw!
The two take their seats, and Hwan-ki removes his coat, surprising Ji-hye. “Won’t you be uncomfortable?” she asks. Hwan-ki replies that he’s at ease when he’s with people that don’t judge him. He suggests they head out, but Ji-hye proposes they order coffee first.
Hwan-ki decides on a caramel macchiato (after rethinking every possible choice), which Ji-hye orders too. They sit in silence while Hwan-ki overthinks how best to ask her out on a movie date — “Should I open my planner and discuss availability?” — but when he finally speaks, Ji-hye says time’s up. Hwan-ki sighs and asks if he looked stupid, but Ji-hye offers a reassuring smile and compliments him on ordering a drink that women prefer, though he admits he simply ordered what he liked. Aw, this was all practice!
She offers some advice: don’t put too much weight on the movie date and ask lightly so it feels less burdensome. Hwan-ki gratefully accepts her note and asks if he should leave the coat at home. Ji-hye answers that he should wear whatever makes him feel comfortable if he cares about the woman. He’s about to leave with the bouquet, but she thinks it may be too much, so he gives it to her instead and thanks her for her help.
Hwan-ki’s at another cafe, looking for someone when a woman suddenly yanks his hood. He turns around and faces a smiling woman who asks, “You’re still going around like this?” Her name is SEO YEON-JUNG (Jang Hee-jin), and she orders an Americano, declining Hwan-ki’s caramel macchiato suggestion. He decides to get the same as well. Uh oh.
The two catch up, and Hwan-ki valiantly drinks his Americano, keeping his cringes to a minimum. She’s disappointed that he came empty-handed; she expected a bouquet since he liked her in college. But this is news to Hwan-ki, and Yeon-jung laughs as she admits her crush on him then.
She asks him to hang out with her often since everyone else got married, and Woo-il is his sole friend. Hwan-ki suggests catching a movie, but Yeon-jung interrupts and asks him to buy her art instead, since he’s loaded. She laughs at his befuddled face and clarifies, inviting him to visit her gallery.
Ji-hye’s patching up her worn heels with black nail polish at her desk when Hwan-ki returns to the office. She gets up to greet him, and he notices the trail of nail polish left on the floor. Ji-hye apologizes and removes her heels immediately, explaining that she was painting them to muffle the loud noises they make.
Hwan-ki smiles and informs her that he met with the woman thanks to her help. He places a gift bag on her desk before heading into his office. Ji-hye opens it and is touched to find a brand new pair of black heels, the ones we know she wore the day she died.
Hwan-ki and Woo-il shoot hoops outside. After learning that he successfully met up with Yeon-jung, Woo-il asks if he can “borrow” Ji-hye for her services. The word choice bothers Hwan-ki, who informs Woo-il that Ji-hye is a good person. Woo-il’s already aware since Ji-hye handles Hwan-ki so well and explains that he just wanted her dating expertise in order to treat Yi-soo.
Ji-hye comes to work the next day feeling great in her brand new heels. She spots Woo-il, who tells her how grateful Hwan-ki is for her help. Then, Hwan-ki’s mom approaches Woo-il, and the two head up to his office; she says she has big news for him.
She surprises Woo-il when she encourages him to formally propose to Yi-soo. She says she got the okay from her husband even though he wasn’t keen on Woo-il’s orphanage upbringing. Woo-il’s at a loss for words and admits he’s nervous.
At a jewelry store, Yi-soo eyes a necklace and informs Woo-il that she’d like to wear it on Christmas Eve, since it’ll be a special day. Woo-il recalls her mom’s insistence on proposing and looks worried.
Ji-hye returns home, and Ro-woon points to a necklace in a magazine (the same one Yi-soo liked) as she begs Ji-hye to get it for her before her big audition. Ji-hye says she’ll get it for her eventually, and Mom chides Ro-woon’s neediness.
Hwan-ki fumbles with a sweater before a mirror, uncertain if it’s the right look. But Ji-hye assures him that it looks nice and encourages him to charge forward with confidence, which makes him smile.
Emboldened by Ji-hye’s words, Hwan-ki visits Yeon-jung at her gallery and surprises her with a bouquet and an Americano, and says he’ll purchase the artwork she just finished putting up. Yeon-jung feels guilty that he took her words literally, but he insists he’d like the piece in his office. She laughs and suggests they take things slow, surprising Hwan-ki.
Yeon-jung instructs him to treat her on Christmas Eve with wine and a pretty present that’s not too pricey. She ruffles his hair and explains that she’s being intentionally direct to simplify their relationship.
Woo-il is back at the jewelry store, looking dazed as Yi-soo’s necklace/proposal gift gets wrapped. Later, he meets with Ji-hye on the rooftop and asks her what she’d like for Christmas; he’d like to reward her for taking good care of Hwan-ki. Ji-hye asks for lots of money so she can donate it to the White Cloud Orphanage, surprising Woo-il.
She gets home, and her dad asks if she’s eaten, but Ji-hye turns the question back to him. His neighbor friends note how considerate Ji-hye is for thinking of him first, as well as the orphans. Then Ro-woon makes her boisterous entrance, and when her dad asks her if she’s eaten, she answers that she’s starving and yells for her mom to feed her. They all have a good laugh about the polar opposite sisters.
Ro-woon asks Ji-hye about the drawing she’s working on on her bed, and Ji-hye coyly answers that it’s of the view someone is always looking at. Ro-woon’s under the impression that Ji-hye has a boyfriend and teases her, even though Ji-hye maintains he’s just a coworker. Ro-woon asks her to attend her last show on Christmas Eve with her boyfriend so she can size him up, and Ji-hye pinky promises to attend, even if she goes alone.
The next morning, Ji-hye sits nervously at her desk. When Hwan-ki arrives, she brings up her little sister’s show on Christmas Eve, and Hwan-ki permits her to leave work early tomorrow to attend. It almost seems like there was more to her question… was she going to invite him?
As soon as Hwan-ki enters his office, he punches the air and breaks into the biggest smile we’ve seen yet. He flies around the room, so ecstatic about his Christmas Eve date. Ji-hye opens his door and catches him mid-celebration, and he freezes.
Ji-hye pretends she saw nothing, and Hwan-ki informs her that his painting by his artist friend will be delivered this afternoon. He shyly adds that he has plans to see her tomorrow, but isn’t sure what to gift her, so Ji-hye offers to give him a list of options.
Back at her desk, Ji-hye examines her drawing of a multistory building. She gathers the courage to text Hwan-ki and ask if he can meet her later. Yi-soo arrives in a perky mood and reveals to Ji-hye that she’s getting married, but doesn’t reveal who her man is.
Yi-soo’s flipping out about tomorrow and expresses how nervous she is for the proposal, despite eyeing Woo-il for twenty years. Hwan-ki smiles at how happy she is as she describes tomorrow’s events — first, a musical at W Art Hall, followed by the proposal. Hwan-ki recalls Ji-hye mentioning that her sister was performing at the same hall tomorrow.
Ji-hye anxiously clutches her drawing, wondering if the cover and decorative ribbon are excessive. She accidentally drops it on the floor, and Woo-il picks it up. He takes a look despite her protests and admires her artistry. He stubbornly insists on taking it since he’ll donate to the orphanage like she wanted, and Ji-hye reluctantly gives it up. Ugh.
Woo-il finds Hwan-ki’s disgruntled dad sitting in his office, wondering if Woo-il is shirking work after gaining permission to propose to his daughter. He mutters that Hwan-ki should be getting hitched soon and asks Woo-il about the woman from college Hwan-ki’s seeing. Woo-il’s shocked to hear he knows who Hwan-ki is dating; Dad hastily insists he heard from Yi-soo, but Woo-il answers that even she wouldn’t know, because Hwan-ki kept it a secret from his entire family.
Hwan-ki’s dad scolds Woo-il for nitpicking at him, the very person who took Woo-il in despite his lack of roots and groomed him to become a CEO. He warns Woo-il that he’s always watching. After Hwan-ki’s dad leaves, Woo-il shockingly finds a blinking recording device glued under his desk. Uh oh. Hwan-ki’s dad wasn’t kidding. That evening, Woo-il drowns his sorrows at a bar, and Ji-hye arrives soon after.
She’s concerned by how much he’s drinking, but downs a few shots herself out of obligation despite her low tolerance. She asks him why he’s upset, and he answers that his office was wired as he shows her the device. He mentions how his intentions were sincere, but that everyone believed his relationship was based on his need for power.
Ji-hye suggests he return home now, and he asks her to take him there, since she’s frequented the White Cloud Orphanage before. Ji-hye’s surprised to hear this, and Woo-il laments his shameful inability to call it home as he tries to down another shot, but Ji-hye stops him. Suddenly, he pulls her in and kisses her despite her resistance.
Even though she’s tipsy herself, she manages to lug Woo-il to a hotel room. She gets up to leave when Woo-il pulls her back. He fastens Yi-soo’s necklace around her neck and pulls her in for another kiss, and this time, Ji-hye looks apprehensive, but doesn’t resist.
The next day, Hwan-ki pulls into the parking garage, smiling from the Christmas gift he prepared. But there’s fire in his eyes as soon as he catches Ji-hye with Woo-il in his car. She’s badly shaken as she stammers that she made a grave mistake, but Woo-il tries to comfort her with an embrace.
Woo-il looks at Ji-hye’s drawing in his office and apologizes to Yi-soo over the phone since he won’t be able to give her the necklace she wanted. But Yi-soo’s undeterred since she actually came by the store to get it herself, and she’ll be the one proposing. The saleswoman recognizes Yi-soo from before when she came with Woo-il, and informs her that Woo-il already purchased it with the intention of proposing to her. Woo-il’s inability to give Yi-soo her necklace suddenly takes on another meaning, but Yi-soo insists to the saleswoman that she must be mistaken and asks for the necklace again.
Back at the office, Ji-hye knocks on Hwan-ki’s door, hoping to leave early, but he asks her to come in. She’s uneasy as she approaches his desk and detects his dour mood. She encourages him to say whatever he needs to and point out any mistakes she made. Hwan-ki thinks back to the sight of her and Woo-il together, and the coincidence of Yi-soo and Ji-hye both planning to catch the same show.
He shows her a single cufflink and instructs her to locate the other one that’s gone missing, even though she points out that he rarely wears shirts that require cuff links. But Hwan-ki’s adamant that she does this task immediately. She calls Ro-woon to apologize for breaking her promise and missing her show tonight, and Ro-woon doesn’t take this well, accusing her sister of being too important to attend her measly show.
Ro-woon drops her phone when she bumps into Woo-il, who’s at the hall with Yi-soo. He gathers the pieces of Ro-woon’s phone and returns it to her before heading into the theater. Meanwhile, back at the office, Ji-hye calls the flower delivery service to send Ro-woon a bouquet.
Hwan-ki sullenly opens his hand, revealing the other cufflink he tasked Ji-hye to find. Meanwhile, Yeon-jung waits for Hwan-ki at a restaurant, but he’s a no-show. She calls him and refuses to let him stand her up on Christmas Eve — she’ll wait, she says. Hwan-ki’s about to change for his date when he glances at his cufflinks and remembers that Ji-hye’s still here.
He opens his door and notices Ji-hye calling Woo-il, asking him to meet her on the rooftop. In her hand is Yi-soo’s necklace that he drunkenly gifted her. Woo-il was in the middle of dinner with Yi-soo when Ji-hye called, and now he’s clearly distracted. He gazes at the necklace around Yi-soo’s neck — the one she purchased herself — and tells her that he has to return to the office, which Yi-soo takes surprisingly well.
Unable to wait for Hwan-ki any longer, Yeon-jung finally decides to leave the restaurant. At the office, Woo-il takes the stairs to the rooftop when he runs into Hwan-ki, who wonders why he’s here when he should be with Yi-soo. “I saw you and Ji-hye alone in the car. What’s going on between you two?” he asks.
Woo-il sputters that he made a drunken mistake, one that guys typically make, and that Ji-hye came on to him first. Ji-hye overhears this; she’s only steps away from them, and proceeds to walk past the men without saying a word. She rounds the corner and finds Yi-soo looking spurned; she heard everything, too.
After her show, Ro-woon holds her bouquet from Ji-hye and regrets yelling at her. She calls her sister, but there’s no answer. Cut to Ro-woon running through the streets wishing desperately for Ji-hye to stay alive. But it’s too late, and Ro-woon sobs next to her sister’s corpse at the hospital.
Next we see Ro-woon at Ji-hye’s wake, looking through her sister’s belongings. She wonders why her heels aren’t there and discovers the necklace she asked Ji-hye to get for her, which brings her to tears; she’s unaware that it came from Woo-il.
Inside the penthouse, Woo-il panics about what others will think when they find out about Ji-hye’s suicide, because that’s his biggest concern. He falls to his knees and begs Hwan-ki to save him and keep this incident their secret, using their friendship as an excuse. Hwan-ki’s visibly distraught, but manages to tearfully say, “Okay fine. Let’s just say it was my fault.” What?!
Hwan-ki feels partially responsible and instructs Woo-il to inform his dad that he’s to blame for making Ji-hye suffer. Woo-il, incredulous and relieved, promises to do everything he can to make sure this doesn’t reach the public and that his dad will do the same. He grabs onto Hwan-ki to ascertain that Ji-hye jumping to her death will remain a secret between the two of them, but Hwan-ki walks away distressed, taking Ji-hye’s heels with him.
Cut to Hwan-ki kneeling before his furious dad. Then we see a rep from Brain put down an envelope of money in front of Ji-hye’s parents at her wake. Ro-woon marches in, fuming that the company is trying to silence them with money, which confirms to her that something went awry at work.
The rep states that no evidence was found from their internal investigation, and Ro-woon shouts that that’s even more suspicious: “Someone committed suicide by jumping off the company building yet there are no reports in the paper?! All you came up with is that she suffered from depression. How does that make sense?”
In the days following Ji-hye’s death, Ro-woon passes out flyers, attempting to spread the word about Ji-hye’s suicide brought on by her workplace. At home, her mom falls ill from the grief and eventually passes away, leaving Ro-woon and her dad alone.
Hwan-ki stands outside the barbershop and follows Ji-hye’s dad inside, where he readies him for a trim. Hwan-ki struggles to get something off his chest, but misses his chance when Ji-hye’s dad places a hot towel over his face and exits for a cigarette break. The mood is odd between them, as if Ji-hye’s dad knows that Hwan-ki needs to cry, and is giving him the space to do so.
Meanwhile, memories flood back to Hwan-ki, from the night Ji-hye jumped, leaving only her shoes behind, to the moments where she smiled and helped him as his secretary and moral support.
With the towel still on his face, Hwan-ki silently weeps as Ji-hye’s dad stubs out his cigarette outside (among many others — has he been giving Hwan-ki more time?), and Ro-woon sits in solitude inside an empty theater. A messenger drops off a bouquet for Ro-woon. “Again?” she wonders. She asks him who sent it, but the messenger says it’s a secret.
The flowers make her smile through her tears, and Hwan-ki watches her from a distance. He narrates, “I watched over her for three years instead of someone no longer here, but…” We return to the present, three years later, where tipsy Ro-woon confronts Hwan-ki: “If you only watch quietly like that, nothing will happen for you. If you only watch, you can’t protect anybody.”
She passes out and falls limply against Hwan-ki, who instinctively holds onto her. Next, he piggybacks Ro-woon up the steep steps to her dad’s barbershop. He has a red bruise on his eye, although it’s not clear how that materialized.
Ro-woon drunkenly mutters that she’s tired, the irony of which doesn’t escape Hwan-ki. She laments that her revenge put others in trouble, and that even though she sort of succeeded in exacting it, she doesn’t feel good about it. “I feel very sorry.”
Her apology gives him pause, and he replies, “That’s what I should say,” and continues carrying Ro-woon up the steps.
Of course, this episode began with adorable Hwan-ki smiles and sweet little moments, only to take a very dark and dramatic turn in the middle. Thanks for nothing, Woo-il.
This episode, save for the last bit at the end, finally revealed to us what exactly happened that Christmas Eve three years ago, and most importantly, the circumstances that led to Ji-hye’s tragic death. I loved that we got to see the relationship between Hwan-ki and Ji-hye pre-Woo-il, because it wasn’t previously apparent that the two actually shared an easy, comfortable bond, which makes Hwan-ki’s sacrifice and Ji-hye’s suicide all the more devastating in hindsight. Now we know that Ji-hye’s cautiousness and Hwan-ki’s cold demeanor toward each other on Christmas Eve was an anomaly.
How lovely was it to see Hwan-ki so relaxed around Ji-hye? He smiled easily, loosened up his posture, stuttered less, and breathed evenly. What a stark contrast to the Hwan-ki we were presented with before. It seriously warmed my heart every time Ji-hye gently guided and looked after him. I know it’s sort of her job to do so, but the two definitely connected on a friendship level that was very sweet and genuine. The part where she quietly alerted Hwan-ki before moving forward and plucking a stray thread from his sweater really illustrated how considerate she was of him without being overbearing. In fact, Ji-hye just may have been his only true friend. And no, Woo-il definitely does not count as a friend.
I disliked Woo-il from the start, and now I know he’s a certified spineless, self-absorbed coward. Forget that he’s had this lifelong insecurity for being an orphan and that Yi-soo’s father looks down on him! Woo-il is still a fool, and his pathetic self was on full display in this episode. First, he infuriated me when he basically forced Ji-hye to give him the drawing. Who does that?! Then, he had the audacity to blame Ji-hye for his lapse in judgment and characterize his mistake as “something that guys do by accident,” like it’s a common and admissible phenomenon. I don’t think a rape took place, but it was clear that neither of them — especially Woo-il — were in the right state of mind to make sound decisions. Furthermore, Woo-il always had the tendency to take advantage of Ji-hye’s kindness — just like he does with Hwan-ki — so even when he was intoxicated, he still acted very much true to himself. As for how drunk Woo-il and Ji-hye were, it’s rather unclear; he probably drank more than she did, but she also had a very low tolerance.
Because we’ll never know what was in the original script for episode five, it’s hard to say what specific changes were made during the rewrite, although it’s safe to assume that they overhauled all of it, since that was the statement released by the creatives. Fortunately, this episode didn’t feel at all out of place; it didn’t feel like it was rewritten, and I guess that’s a good thing? There weren’t any jarring shifts in tone, and all the characters’ original personalities and motivations remained intact as far as I can tell; I appreciated seeing a new side of Hwan-ki and learning more about Ji-hye. I was, however, very confused by Ji-hye’s building drawing. Why the building, and how is it significant?
Perhaps the narrative changes will be more evident in the next episode, which I expect will take place entirely in the present and feature Ro-woon more, now that we got the full backstory/giant flashback out of the way. It’ll be interesting to see how — and if — they change Ro-woon; she’s the main lead and the most problematic character of the bunch. Her pain is understandable, but directing her blame entirely on Hwan-ki based on pretty much nothing? Not so much.