It is finally here: the fight that we have been anticipating between Eun-sung and her stepmom.
As battles go, this one is swift, nasty and lopsided. Days later, all I could recall of the episode was this scene, this showdown that left everyone except its instigators reeling. I knew it was coming, but its viciousness took me completely by surprise.
But Episode 19 isn’t just about vindictive stealth attacks. It’s also filled with light couple moments that make me giggle and feel all tingly inside. This is why I love Brilliant Legacy. It isn’t so angsty that you feel you are tiptoeing on a minefield of fragile emotions. It’s sweet, funny and all-around heartwarming, too.
Episode 18 ended with Eun-sung discovering the truth about her dad’s insurance. As Episode 19 opens, we see her staggering out of the insurance office. She walks like one who is half-drunk, except it isn’t soju she has consumed but the bitter news that her stepmom has withdrawn every bit of the insurance money.
She remembers now the day of her dad’s abrupt passing. Her stepmom asking for her personal particulars and signature and how, in her grieving stupor, she did exactly as she was told. She thought the stepmom was going to use that letter of authorization for funeral matters. How could she know it was to claim the insurance benefits on her and Eun-woo’s behalf? How could she imagine anyone, what more her father’s wife, stooping so low?
The extent of the witch’s greed and deception makes Eun-sung feel ill and she wanders around town in a daze, forgetting that she is supposed to meet Hwan for a work-related appointment.
Already concerned about her missing their appointment (it’s so unlike her), Hwan gets increasingly worried when Eun-sung does not return for dinner. He keeps watching the clock and startles Butler Pyo in the kitchen when he comes downstairs on the pretext of wanting coffee; what he really wants is confirmation rather than caffeine: Is everyone home?
Our butler, who is not only wise but witty, plays along and replies innocently: Oh, one person is not home yet.
When the girl you love is not back by midnight and you are frantic with worry but have no way of contacting her, what do you do? Why, turn to your rival for help, of course! So Hwan calls Jun-se and asks, as politely as is Hwanly possible (if you guess he’s yelling, you are right), if Eun-sung is with him.
That sets the two guys off. Jun-se dashes out to see if Eun-sung has gone to Hye-ri’s house while Hwan, who really has no idea who Eun-sung hangs out with, waits at the bus stop. Meanwhile, the girl they are looking for is sitting somewhere on a bench. Her handphone rings continuously, but her mind is still spinning and all she wants is to be left alone.
(Eun-sung’s stunned reaction to the news of her stepmom’s betrayal confirms what I have begun to fear: she is no match for the witch.
Many episodes ago, when Eun-sung decided she would accept the grandma’s inheritance because that would empower her to defeat her stepmom, I thought our heroine and villain were evenly matched. I thought we would see a tougher Eun-sung who was just waiting for the right moment to strike back.
But clearly she has no idea how despicable her opponent can be. She, who is kind to everyone and cannot fathom the depths of evil, is simply ill-prepared for the looming battle.)
Eun-sung is not at Hye-ri’s house, but that’s okay because wherever she is, Jun-se is going to find her. I will search EVERYWHERE, he tells Hye-ri. Aww…
(Aside: I have started an online petition for Jun-se to stop being so caring and altogether wonderful. He is causing too many hearts to bleed on his behalf. If you are one of those hurting for him, will you please sign the petition? Just do a search for “DARLING JUN-SE, ENOUGH.” Thank you.)
As Jun-se is driving around, scanning the streets for any sign of Eun-sung, Hwan is at the bus stop near his house. One bus after another passes, but there’s no Eun-sung in sight. Eventually, to his immense relief, he sees her on the bus. As she alights, he pounces on her angrily: Were you born to drive me crazy?
Why are you worrying about me?
Why can’t I worry about you?
As the two stand there, each trying to process what the other had just said, Jun-se drives past. He sees them and his face literally falls. (Thus causing an instant spike in the number of people signing the petition.)
Jun-se stops his car at the bus stop, but since tunnel vision is normal in a kdrama, Hwan and Eun-sung do not see him. All they see is each other.
Do you know why Hwan and Eun-sung were staring at each other for so long? The PD wants us to think it’s because of the loaded meaning behind their words, but we’re too smart to be hoodwinked. Let me tell you the real reason. They are really staring at each other’s clothes.
Hwan can’t believe his eyes. Did Eun-sung sneak into his room and scoot off with his favorite T-shirt, the one with the large red heart? Look at what she’s wearing!
Back in his room, Hwan checks his wardrobe to see what else is missing (nah, just kidding) and then sits and broods over his own behavior. Why did he do what he just did: waiting for her, even yelling and exposing his feelings? Was he out of his mind?
In her attic room, Eun-sung has momentarily forgotten about her stepmom. Instead she is mulling over the guy downstairs and having flashbacks of him. Why were they behaving so self-consciously around each other? What did he mean when he implied that he had the right to worry about her?
The next day, Hwan walks into the dining room for breakfast and immediately notices that Eun-sung’s chair is empty. He is told that she has left for work and that she did not eat anything before leaving.
(Notice the photos on the side table are mostly of Hwan? They are too faint for us to see what his hair was like as a kid. I’m guessing “untamed.” I love set details like this one and always pay attention to them. For instance, I’m forever checking out the decor in Hwan’s room and noticing what he has on his table. Too bad we have so few scenes of Jun-se alone in his room. Our angel doesn’t seem to be home much, is he? Must be because of that parasite living with him, that Hyung-jin chap.)
During lunch break at work, a preoccupied Eun-sung does not join her colleagues for lunch but leaves to settle scores with her stepmom. She had earlier called the witch and asked to meet. It’s about Dad, she says.
Hwan, who has obviously forgotten how he had chided himself last night for being crazy, sees Eun-sung leaving and dashes after her.
(I’m really liking Hwan’s hair in this episode. Looks like he had a trim, huh? It’s nice; the top heaviness is gone and he looks years younger. Now, if only he would get rid of his favorite neck accessory. At least this one is smaller, less snake-like, and matches his brown top perfectly.)
Hwan grabs her arm as she’s going down the stairs and insists, in his usual gruff manner, that she eat something. Hadn’t she skipped breakfast that morning? What was she trying to do, fall ill and drive him up the wall with worry again?
Eun-sung stares at his hand on her arm. Hoho, so now it’s not her wrist but her arm? Moving northward, eh? What’s next? Her neck?
Last night she had been tongue-tied when he showed his concern for her. But today is different. She’s about to meet the witch. This isn’t the time for her to waver in front of him. So, with uncharacteristic coldness, Eun-sung turns to him and says:
Don’t treat me so nicely and stop feeling remorseful. I’m not going to blame you for losing Eun-woo anymore. From now on, just do your own thing and I’ll do mine. I don’t want to do things that will hurt you and I’ve never lied to you. Go treat the woman you’re going to marry better and stop caring whether others have eaten or not! Yoo Seung-mi is the woman you’re going to marry!
As Eun-sung runs off, let’s pause here and consider Hwan’s reaction. Apparently the guy has no idea he’s supposed to marry Seung-mi. No wonder he looks so stunned. All these years of being together, of Seung-mi treating him so possessively, and he isn’t aware, unless he is in love with Seung-mi, that he’s leading her on? It’s time you make your intentions clear, Hwannie. Learn from Jun-se and stop hedging.
Speaking of Jun-se, our resident angel must still be smarting from seeing Hwan waiting for Eun-sung last night because he shows up for work with his face all glum. (Will you just look at that stern expression and tell me if it doesn’t make you squeal even more? How is it that gloom can transform a face into such a chiseled work of art?)
Jun-se overhears Hye-ri’s telephone conversation with Eun-sung and confronts her as soon as she finishes the call. That Seung-mi that you just mentioned… Is that the same Seung-mi that I know?
Thus Jun-se learns, surprisingly for the first time, that Seung-mi and Eun-sung are stepsisters and that Seung-mi’s mom is the one who abandoned Eun-woo. What a small world. What a mess of entangled ties.
He immediately leaves to see Eun-sung, but she’s not at the second branch. But Hwan is, so the two guys trot up to the rooftop for some man-to-man time.
The rooftop is a sanctuary for Hwan and he has shared many a moment up there with Eun-sung. But the rooftop is also where Jun-se last saw Hwan performing a chivalrous act with a certain potted plant. It’s not a happy place for our second fiddle; you can just see it on his face. Also, ever since a blow was given and received at the noraebang the night of the second branch’s 30th anniversary, the two guys know exactly where they stand with each other. No need to skirt the issue; just come right out and say what needs to be said.
Thank you for walking Eun-sung home last night and making sure she is safe. But you don’t have to do things like that anymore. Stop liking Eun-sung. Just forget about her.
Why? Can’t I like her?
Why can’t I?
Because you will hurt her.
Are you saying I’m someone who will hurt her?
Aren’t you working here because of the inheritance? Stop sending confusing signals to Eun-sung. She’s the person I like.
No blows are exchanged this time, so we can leave the two rivals without worrying they will draw each other’s blood. Let’s turn our attention to the one that Eun-sung is about to meet.
Near the end of Episode 18, we see the witch having a well-deserved migraine. She retires to bed and thus misses a phone call from the private investigator that she had hired to look for Eun-woo. Seung-mi takes the call instead.
The next morning, the witch realizes the gravity of going to sleep without hiding her handphone under her pillow. Now her dirty secret is out. Now her precious daughter knows that she abandoned Eun-woo!
What she does not know, however, is that Seung-mi will later go to Daegu and will speak to the woman who looked after Eun-woo after he was left there. Seung-mi’s behavior at the woman’s house is telling. She caresses the small piano that Eun-woo played and weeps as she leaves the house. Our witchling did love her stepbrother after all.
At the beginning of this recap, I mentioned the showdown between Eun-sung and her stepmom. But that showdown is really their second of the episode. Their first one is less bruising because Eun-sung has come prepared. She tells the witch that she knows all about the insurance money and how the latter forged a power of attorney.
Stop beating around the bush and get straight to the point, her stepmom snaps back. She reminds Eun-sung how she couldn’t move or do a thing when her dad died, and how she had authorized the stepmom to act for her. The insurance money was used to pay off the debtors; Eun-sung saw with her own eyes how they stormed the house.
Mother, you’re really something. I came here thinking you would apologize, that you would be floored by the evidence I’m holding. You can keep the insurance money. Everything that has happened — losing Eun-woo, meeting Grandma — happened because of you. Thanks to you, I’m inheriting Grandma’s assets. Thanks to you, I will one day become president of Jin Sung Food. Sure, Hwan will still get part of the inheritance, but because of all that you have done to me, I will make sure he can’t marry Seung-mi!
If you dare do anything to Seung-mi, I will turn you into a toad, the witch says.
Fine, then live on tenterhooks every day worrying about what I’m going to do, her stepdaughter retorts. Thus ends their first showdown which Eun-sung wins, hands down.
Even as the two are slugging it out verbally, Hwan is meeting Seung-mi.
(Notice his body language when he’s with her? He’s relaxed and himself, just like how he is with Eun-woo. The two really do have good chemistry.)
Seung-mi encourages Hwan to return to the States to study, but he replies that he wants to use his own abilities to raise revenues at the second branch. Then he adds a remark that startles her.
You said Eun-sung asked you not to mention your relationship with each other. But the way I see it, you wanted to keep it hidden, too.
Hwan’s implication? That Eun-sung’s supposed evasiveness isn’t such a big deal after all. His words haunt Seung-mi and will be instrumental in helping her decide to be her mother’s accomplice against Eun-sung later.
While all this is going on, a much sweeter pairing is enjoying some alone time back in Grandma’s house.
The butler comes up to Hwan’s mom and dumps a mountain of clean laundry in front of her.
Apparently our lady of the house has been squirreling away the clothes to save herself the bother of folding them. But our butler discovers her stash and tells her it’s pointless trying to get away, he knows exactly what she’s up to and thinking.
You must be a ghost, she laughs, and the two giggle like the two kids that they really are, unaware that Jung has come home and is staring at them astounded. Mom and Ajusshi, what are you two doing?
Ah, how I love these three. They’re so comical together. Jung especially is a hoot the way she belatedly remembers, about ten seconds later, that she is supposed to be polite.
That night, Hwan is reading Eun-sung’s notebook in his room when her anonymous card to him drops out.
He picks up the card and reads the words again. By now that single sentence has been seared into his memory. At least he isn’t a bad person in her eyes. That’s a start.
The next day our sweet manager insists that Eun-sung and Hwan must work together. The second branch is hoping to win a catering contract with a church and Hwan has promised that he will even clean up the place for them. So off to the church our couple troop, both dressed in coordinated colors.
At the church Hwan betrays how acutely conscious he is of Eun-sung’s presence by behaving like a total klutz, dropping his bucket and rags the instant he sees her. Throughout their time at the church, the two keep pretending that they are not looking at each other when in reality they are glancing at the other every five seconds.
All that effort at cleaning and acting cool makes Hwannie hungry. Somehow he manages to slip away without Eun-sung’s knowledge and she now sees him sitting outside the church, chomping happily on kimbap.
She scolds him for being selfish and eating alone; he responds by producing a special serving of sashimi that he had bought for her. He didn’t forget a bottle of water as well. She is touched and so are we. Everyone say it with me now: Aww…
I LOVE this image of Hwan. In fact, I absolutely adore this whole scene; it’s my favorite in the episode. Not only does he look so boyish in that hair (love it!), he is teasing and playful.
Didn’t you say I’m not a bad person? he says, two dimples flashing adorably as he smiles. It’s like the guy just won Mr. Congeniality or something. His face is about to burst with pride at his own thoughtfulness.
Won over by that surprise lunch, Eun-sung stops being irritated with Hwan. When they arrive home (in Grandma’s car), he continues his winsome behavior by taking her paper bag from her hand and carrying it for her. She runs after him and tries to snatch it back. He refuses to let go. The two are like a pair of puppies tussling mischeviously over a bone.
Unknown to them, Seung-mi and her mom are sitting in a car nearby, watching everything. The witchling cringes as her beau frolicks with the enemy.
As they emerge from the car, they look at each other with the sort of determination that hyenas display as they circle a fresh carcass. There’s no turning back now. It’s showtime.
Surprising everyone in the house with their unheralded appearance, the witch and witchling take center stage. Their demeanor is exceedingly humble, contrite even. As performances go, this one is a knockout.
My husband died suddenly in an accident. I was so devastated I didn’t dare tell anyone. His debtors were baying for our blood.
Eun-sung is the daughter of my late husband. Before you even met her, she already knew Grandma and Hwan’s identities. She had seen Grandma’s picture in a magazine and Hwan’s photos were displayed prominently on Seung-mi’s table at home. She even talked about how powerful Grandma was.
I kept asking her to leave your house, but she coveted the inheritance so much she refused to listen to me. She even threatened me, saying I misappropriated her dad’s insurance money. But I used that money to pay off his debts. Here is the letter of authorization that Eun-sung wrote.
I’m sorry for causing all this trouble. I’m really sorry.
I don’t know about you, but I was just gobsmacked by the whole scene. It’s executed so perfectly there’s no time for Eun-sung to react. The evidence against her is overwhelming.
The triumphant liars leave (although Seung-mi is shaken, no doubt about it, and will likely have nightmares that night) and Eun-sung is left to face Grandma and the rest of the family.
How dare you! Hwan’s mom screams and promptly slaps Eun-sung. MOM! Hwan shouts, still reeling from everything. Grandma does not say a word.
And so Eun-sung leaves, taking all of her belongings with her.
As she stands before the family, presumably for the last time, the love in her eyes for Grandma is unmistakable. Nothing pains her more than for this person to misunderstand her. This person who took her in, who trusted her enough to want to give her all her assets. The agony and anger she must be feeling this very moment.
The last person in the world that I want to hurt is you, Grandma. I love you so much and I will always be grateful to you. Please believe in me.
But her words remain unspoken. Nothing that she says is going to matter at this point.