JTBC’s newest Mon-Tue drama has premiered two weeks ago and Nate has been abuzz with it ever since, with SLA being 1.- 5. most searched each day (a huge success for a cable drama). Well, one thing is certain – Yoo Ah In, the noona killer, is back with vengeance as he banishes all my doubts about the plausibility of the romance between him and his co-star Kim Hee Ae. They are both perfect for their roles as they demonstrate during the charged piano-playing scene which lasts for the most of the preview, yet reveals intriguing insight into the main protagonits’ characters. From the moment when Lee Sun Jae first lays his eyes on Oh Hye Won you can almost physically feel the electric sparks start flying between them and the next you know the sparks turn into an explosive sexual tension that will be hard to be denied in the future.
When SJ (20), a young man from modest backround, comes to a private autidition of-sorts to HW’s house (40, a planning director of Seohan Arts Foundation), neither of them can’t even imagine what the outcome of their meeting would be. Sun Jae is shy, awkward, warm-hearted and adorably positive as he possesses almost a child-like innocence in his love for piano and music, whereas HW seems to be his complete opposite – reserved, disillusioned and seemingly dispassionate, however, SJ’s arrival changes that all. It turns out SJ is a Mozart-like prodigy, a diamond in the rough with an immense talent, who reveals to HW when she noticed he doesn’t use the pedals that he taught himself to play by watching youtube videos.
This OTP owns me! I’m in awe of this show and can only congratulate the writer and Ahn PD for creating such a riveting story with fascinating leads but most of all for casting Yoo Ah In and Kim Hee Ae who own every milisecond they spend on the screen. Secret Love Affair is not your typical kdrama with clean-cut characters which you can watch on SBS, MBC or KBS2 twice each day as jTBC proves to us how lucky we are to have cable channels because they are not afraid to air unconventional stories. The Koreans viewers apparently think so, too, because the second episode recorded a 3,1% (it’s like 15+%), a whooping number for a cable channel.
I fell in love with Hye Won when she forgot to put on her skirt, wearing only her underskirt, and realized it only later when she took off her coat in her office, LOL. I so feel you, girl! She is everything her self-centered and incompetent husband, Kang Joon Hyeong, is not – successful, confident, smart, talented,...I feel that YAI is about to bring another of those unforgettable characters to the screen like Moon Jae Shin or Lee Soon – he literally shines as LSJ, the shy, awkward and adorable man-boy who could make even the most sworn sceptics fall in love with him.
It’s still early days but I think that we are about to watch one of the most memorable and groundbreaking noona romances in Kdramaland because the first two episodes must have put all the doubters to rest whether a romance with such age difference can be plausible since YAI and KHA prove them wrong whenever they appear on the screen together – they set it aflame.
Immediately. their first scene together was perfectly orchestrated to both show their respective personalities and their ages and also initiate their connection through their love for piano as HW recommends a hospital to SJ so he can treat his condition. SJ communicates as his real self, giving truthfully his age and occupation with the typical naivité and trust of youth while HW, having so much experience and knowing all the dangers, assumes a completely different identity and is happy to engage in this little game.
I’ve read that it was KHA herself who asked YAI to take the role and she knows talent when she sees it. The vast emotions he manages to emote with every single look will mesmerized you in the same way Seon Jae was mesmerized by the sound of the piano. The enthrallment in his eyes is so palpable you can tangibly feel how he is pulled towards HW and the piano by a magnetic and irresistible force. I think that in this moment SJ fell in love twice at first sight – figuratively with the magnificent concert grand with its black and white keys and irrevocably with HW who is probably even more magnificent and fittingly wearing the black-and-white colours of a piano (I think the cordi dressed her deliberately to subtly underline HW and SJ’s connection through the piano). In that moment, they are both unattainable for him, as far as the sky he can’t ever reach, but he will slowly come closer with each steps he will take until finally he can hold them both.
The final scene of episode 1 sealed it for me – when SJ personally meets HW for the first time and he can’t believe his luck that he actually met the woman who so captivated him only the day. When they truly see each other the attraction makes you shiver. And now, when I’m fully on board this ship I can only hope it will safely sail to the harbor known as Happily Ever After and not sink like Titanic.
MY FEELS! He adorably asks her to play a duet with him and she agrees! It’s beyond intense and the brief glimpses of their hands in such close proximity while they move over the piano keys in an intimate dance are unbelievably sensual. I love how HW gradually relaxes, lowering her barriers, and gets fully immersed in the moment.
I think SJ was smitten with HW when he first saw and I find it cute how everytime she wants to end their meeting he always finds another excuse to prolong it. It looks like he admires her and is both giddy, shy and insecure to show her his abilities. He is unsure how to express himself, how to describe how he learns, yet when he answers questions about his playing he turns more confident and animated. He is a man-child and YAI with his boyish features and emotive eyes is simply pitch-perfect for this type of role. Actually, SJ reminds me of his character in Antique Bakery (perhaps my favourite Korean movie ever), a movie from 2008 where he actualy was 20 years old and it seems like barely a day passed since then. He is such an adorable bundle of shyness, giddiness, insecurity, eagerness and vulnerability when he asks her whether she want him to play again because he did it wrongly before. I literally squealed when she told him it’s because she wants to her him play again! And when he is on the bridge reminiscing, the way YAI expresses SJ’s raw emotions so immediately and distictly proves that he truly belongs among the best of his generation.
I’ve read some complaints about KHA, particularly from YAI’s fan, that she is too old for the role, for him, not enough pretty and therefore they’d rather see someone else in her stead, Kim Su Ah. With all respect, I find these opinions rather illogical, prejuduced and biased and so typical for casting in kdrama. SLA is a story about two people who face 20 years and it’s only appropriate that they would be portrayed by actors who have the same age difference to make it plausible and realistic. YAI is 27 and KHA is 47 which is perfect for the story. Casting someone like KSA who is still in her 30’s and is barely 10 years older than YAI would be something SBS, MBC or KBS would do to placate the viewers and public opinion. Thanks for the cable TV because it would jeopardize the whole story and render it worthless. I find it rather chauvinistic that people don’t mind when a young actress is cast opposite far more older actor while praising her for her beauty and him for his manliness and charisma but when it goes the other way round everyone is quick to comment how the actress is too old, acts badly, dresses badly and so on.
SLA is a shippy perfection as it delivers pretty much the stuff of my dreams to the screen as the OTP scenes are so subtle, yet overflowing and charged with chemistry. Among the many things I love and adore about SJ is his innocence, naturalness and guileless straightfowardness – he isn’t afraid to voice his desire, he doesn’t even bother to hide his yearning in his eyes, to cover it with a mask of indifference like most people do (MY FEELS! That look in SJ’s eyes made my knees into a jelly). This characteristic is typical for children who has never been hurt before or afraid to be hurt, the more older we get this fear of rejection gets stronger and we are afraid to show our vulnerabilities, but not SJ.This child-like innocence is partially what makes him so fascinating to HW and the viewers as he keeps projecting this innocence to his playing, to his interpretation of music, and you can feel it whenever he plays – that artless, heartfelt passion of his is what seize HW when she plays the duet alongside him – It’s infectious and SJ swept her away with his ardent passion for music.
I think the reasons why SJ asked HW to plays that particular Schubert’s concert are two: 1) He wanted to be near here, closer than would rules of propriety allow, you can literally feel his longing seeping through his emotive eyes 2) it’s THEIR SONG, the piece that started their fate together, the beginning of their connection. It’s the song that brought him to her in the first playe like, luring him to her.
The two sideway, fleeting and glances SJ gives her pull at my heartsrings whenever I watch this scene as they reveal to us his mind, how he feels, allow us to read his mind – He is so vulnerable and unsure during that moment yet eager to know how it affected HW, how they little interlude made her feel, whether it left her cold or whether it had affected her as much as it did him.
I swear the PD is a genius because those shots of their fingers in such close proximity remind me of slow erotic dance, so achingly near, yet never touching. It’s like a study of the beauty of human body, a celebrations of its complex movements. I like how the PD chooses it to illustrate SJ and HW’s different personality: HW so very feminine, her slender fingers dancing elegantly over the keyboard while next to them is SJ’s virile masculinity with his deft, powerful and dynamic movements, It’s like their personal tango when one leads and the other willingly follows.
And finally, how utterly adorable SJ is afterwards when he keeps reminiscing about the pinch HW gave him? He even touches the place and caresses it to remember her touch and then he possitively beams with disarming smile of his. Awwwwww.
“I want to hear (you to play) it again.” – HW to SJ
If I were to choose my favourite piece played by SJ thus far it wouldn’t be the duet no matter how much I love it or how amazing it is but Beethoven’s Appassionata. It’s an exhilarating experience to watch SJ play it because it so perfectly represent everything he is and stands for the his undisguised passion, openness, his boundless energy and barely concealed power and virility. It shows us a true, avid artist who is completely absorbed by the music and finds himself in his element, a virtuos showing his genius, the unconcealed raw emotions. It’s a sight to behold this amazing dynamisn. Whenever I listen to him it brings to my mind a tameless tempest and reminds me of a real rockstar because SJ literally rocks it like a man possesed, like he is channeling his inner Beethoven. It doesn’t matter whether he plays the piece on a first rate concert grand or a dirty railing because he always feels the emotion that flow through the music and to interpret them so honestly is SJ’s greatest gift.
“He is so…beautiful.” – HW about SJ
MY FEELS! SHIPPY HEAVEN! I pretty much died during this entire sequence. It gives me heart palpilations whenever I watch SJ play until the break of dawn only because he can’t forget HW and her simple praise and therefore he even projects and imagines her next to him, by his side playing with him on the railing and still wearing the clothes from earlier (I mean, he is so deep he even remembers what she wore). And than later just before he falls asleep watching his piano and he sees them two playing together while HW lies in the other part of town before her concert grand which SJ played on earlier that day still remembering him, still bewitched by his ebullience and vivaciousness.
I think it’s so telling and meaningful that SJ has his piano placed right next to his bed as it shows how essential it is for him like sleeping or breathing, something he can’t he can’t live without. And now he sees HW there – she has barely entered his life but she has already become an essential of it, an essential SJ will soon not be able to live without.
SJ is so thrilled and happy that HW came but the moment he learns she is the professor’s wife his face falls. Now, the realization dawns on him how unattainable and off-limits she really is. I think up until that moment, until the harsh truth invaded his world, SJ seriously considered HW as a woman he could have had a relationship with, without any inhibitions and prejudices about her age.
LOL. That hilarious moment when HW spots SJ’s underwear on the railings and then tries so hard to pretend she is ignoring it while SJ notices it, too, and tries to discreetly hide it and is busted by her. They are having a private moment while the husband is completely oblivious.
One of the things I admire about SLA is that the scenes, particularly those including HW and SJ, are so understated yet very complex managing to subtly reveal so many things about the characters and their dynamic.Other kdramas would take great pains to show that a protagonist is sheepish and embarrassed of his humble run-down home in front of someone but not SLA. For what would other kdramas need dramatic scenes involving tears, cries and smashing of furniture SLA manages with one fleeting, heart-wrenching look from SJ. He is so crestfallen from the moment he hears KJH’s insensitive comment to HW when he leads them to his flat, however, it only takes HW’s kind comment about his egg-containers-made sound proof wall and he immediately beams with happiness because she didn’t forget about his youtube remark.
This show really knows how to initiate skinship between its OTP! Caught Glued to a mouse trap, LOL! Well, that has to be a first in Kdramaland. I like the little moment when the PD lingers a few seconds on SJ’s shocked, WTF face when KJH’s rather leaves his wife stranded, while saving his own skin from mice, than helping her(it’s sad to see that HW isn’t suprised by her husband’s rudeness at all). I think it’s the first of many occasions this will happen and SJ will slowly realise that HW’s husband doesn’t really appreaciate her or love her the way he should. He might waver to start an illicit affair with her behind the back of the “kind” man who gave him a chance of his life and saved him from prison (which was actually HW’s scheme)but after he learns that KJH’s kindness is only a facade to hide his selfishness and incompetence and that he doesn’t treasure HW, it will be the moment he will stop having regrets and begin a relationship with her.
And then he actually KNEELS in front of her and encircles her slender ankle with his finger! MY FEELS! His grip looks so gentle but at the same time firm. (Oh, excuse me but my mind is constantly in a gutter whenever I’m thinking of this show.) But it doesn’t end there as SJ literally sweeps her of her feet and carries her bridal-style downstair!
I think that despite his innocence and the occasional immature moments that are inherent to his youth, SJ is, in many ways, wise beyond his years therefore after some neccesary, initial setback, once he decides to fight all the vultures in the school and resolves to fight for himself and his chance to be with the woman he loves they will be in for quite a fight because SJ has learned the hard way. They all want to win but he can’t afford to lose.
SJ learned to provide for himself and his mother and proved himself to be responsible and reliable at a very young age and much more so than HW’s 42 year-old husband who hides behind his wife and her success his whole life (I’m very much looking foward to what man will SJ grow up into). This reliability of his shows again when he stays and helps HW no matter how embarressing and uncomfortable the whole situation is. It shows that if you look deeper, past the bias and prejudices age is really only a number – it doesn’t really matter how old you are but how you go about your life. SJ doesn’t recoil from hard work or easily discouraged by setbacks and that is why he has such a high chance to be a succesful pianist – playing an instument is only partially about your talent but even more about your perserverance, hard work, willingness to make sacrifices, being undaunted by your failures and keep on fighting.