After last week’s explosive cliffhanger, “Why Her?” returns with corporate showdowns, conspiracy, and of course more questions. We finally get some insight into what transformed Soo Jae (Seo Hyun Jin) from the earnest public defender of Gong Chan’s (Hwang In Yeop’s) memory to the battle-hard woman she is today. Soo Jae peels the layers of herself this week, showing what makes her tick as she faces down enemies on every front. But as clever as she is, Soo Jae is only one person, and the man who has been waiting for her to fall needs only one mistake to take everything from her.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 5-6 below.
During the initial episodes, CEO Choi Tae Guk (Heo Joon Ho) of TK Law seemed like a clever businessman with an appreciation for Soo Jae’s work. He took her side when she waltzed away with Hansu Group’s documents, and he promised their return. He made her managing partner. It even seemed understandable that he would ask her to step away from the position after Park So Young’s (Hong Ji Yoon‘s) death. The nepotism and his blatant favoritism of his son Choi Joo Wan (Ji Seung Hyun) were dislikable, certainly, but not abhorrent. Until this week happened.
For every bit of geniality he offers others, Choi Tae Guk is a kingmaker. He rose through the ranks as a prosecutor doing just that and became Chief Prosecutor, after which he broke away to form TK using his connections from all the wealthy people he set free. Now, he’s a political player that maneuvers people like chess pieces into the high-ranking positions that he wants and makes them dance as his puppets. And Soo Jae isn’t his subordinate. She’s one of his victims.
There has always been something off between Joo Wan and Soo Jae’s interactions that goes beyond mere dislike. In last week’s episodes, she was furious upon being ordered to handle Joo Wan’s impending divorce and actually seemed near tears. And the truth is so painful. It turns out that she dated Joo Wan at one point, and he knocked her up and made promises of marriage.
Worse, Choi Tae Guk echoed the same promises to a younger, happier Soo Jae upon finding that she was pregnant. He told her to go to the States where Joo Wan would join her. They would be married and give the newspapers a love story for the ages. Choi Tae Guk even had the guts to smile and tenderly say that he wants his daughter-in-law to be the main character in a good story. Yeah, it’s a revenge thriller now, not a love story.
A trusting Soo Jae ended up going to the States and sadly had a stillbirth. She called Joo Wan and then Tae Guk when no one picked up, only to find that they were both at Joo Wan’s wedding to the woman who is now his wife. A shattered Soo Jae realizes that she’s been thrown away, that they always meant to do this to her. She’s lost her child, whom she’d nicknamed Sky, and has nothing left, so she attempts to take her life. And the men? They couldn’t care less. It’s absolutely despicable.
After Soo Jae attempts to end her life, she calls Choi Tae Guk who finally picks up. Between gasps, she asks why he did that to her, and he isn’t even fazed. He says that she was the one who messed up by being stupid enough to believe that she was on the same level as him and Joo Wan. The scary thing here is that he doesn’t even use a condescending tone or laugh at her. He just says it like it’s fact, like it’s something obvious and clear, and he shouldn’t even have to explain it. In fact, now that she’s clearly seen the error of her ways, he’ll make her an offer: return to TK and work for him, or become nothing and no one (because there will be nothing left of her career after this).
It’s only sheer fury that allows Soo Jae to cling to life enough to stumble outside her hospital room and get help. She returns to TK and sobs outside the doors because of how hard it is for her to willingly return to the place that chewed her up and spit her out and to work for the same man who ruined what was left of her innocence. But she does it. It’s just so creepy how pleased Choi Tae Guk is as they shake hands. He promises to “raise” her well and give her a taste of power like he didn’t just lose a grandchild?? Soo Jae vows then and there not to stop with just a taste but to become power itself and swallow everything Choi Tae Guk has worked for. And thus, the Oh Soo Jae we know was born.
But the harm Choi Tae Guk has inflicted on Soo Jae doesn’t stop there. When Gong Chan cracks open Hansu Group’s encrypted USB with the help of the rest of the legal clinic, he finds that Choi Tae Guk and Joo Wan used Soo Jae’s name to open a paper company in the Bahamas and embezzle money from Hansu Group into it. Soo Jae’s eyes turn to steel when Gong Chan informs her of that, and she schedules a meeting with Choi Tae Guk.
This scene is an acting masterclass because Seo Hyun Jin and Heo Joon Ho are just that good. Seo Hyun Jin’s enunciation has always been on point, but there’s something about the slightly unhinged way that she plays Soo Jae’s fury that’s electrifying. She notes that for two enemies who know each other’s weaknesses, they sure came far. Choi Tae Guk immediately laughs that Joo Wan’s treatment of Soo Jae was never his weakness because she’s nothing and anything that happened to her wouldn’t have mattered. But Soo Jae knows that this embezzlement matters. This involves political players beyond the two of them and has immediate consequences for his dream of ruling the country from the shadows. So when Choi Tae Guk asks what she wants, she smiles and says that the cost of her name is 70 billion won (approximately $54 million).
And for once, we have the pleasure of seeing Choi Tae Guk knowing he’s screwed.
Choi Tae Guk is furious at being cornered but has to agree to the fee or Soo Jae has no qualms about exposing everything. But he throws in one final barb. For that sum of money, he says that Soo Jae should handle Joo Wan’s divorce. She plays it easy, but meeting with Joo Wan’s soon-to-be ex-wife wounds her, not out of any affection for Joo Wan but because she finds that Joo Wan’s child Choi Jae Yi (Han Joo Hyun) is not his wife’s child. In fact, his wife was pregnant but miscarried upon finding that Joo Wan had cheated on her and had a child with yet another woman. She says she has no interest in having parental rights over Jae Yi and holds the child responsible for the death of her baby (oh that’s just sad!).
Soo Jae keeps a straight face throughout her meeting, but this triggers memories of her losing Sky, and she sobs to her friend Chae Joon Hee (Cha Chung Hwa) that she wants to tell someone about this secret she’s been holding all this time. But instead of telling her friend, who has not only known her longer and is a pretty great person by the looks of it, she wants to tell Gong Chan instead because she feels like he’d comfort her more. This is a really strange moment because she can definitely tell both people. But Soo Jae seems to think that it’s a binary choice. It’s quite odd, especially since she doesn’t even end up confiding in him after all.
We end on a cliffhanger this week as well because Soo Jae makes the bewildering choice of going on her own to meet a known gangster and fixer for Hansu Group. She arrives in time to see his car blow up, almost killing her, and as usual, she calls Gong Chan instead of the police. She’s going to take 10 years off this boy’s life at this rate. That’s the odd thing with “Why Her?” At times it’s a tightly-written legal thriller, at times it’s a melodrama, and at times it’s one of those investigative procedurals where the main characters make bewildering decisions. Why on earth would she go on her own? Especially when this is the same man who attempted to assault her in last week’s cliffhanger. Oh, Soo Jae, just what goes through your head?
Gong Chan continues to be the odd one out here. He’s hard to dislike because the guy is smart and keen on protecting Soo Jae, but he’s so gung ho devoted to doing anything and everything she wants that the question arises as to if he has a personality of his own. Next week seems to show Soo Jae being arrested for the murder of Hansu Group’s fixer. This inverts the positions that Gong Chan and Soo Jae were once in as public defender and accused. Perhaps Gong Chan might take it upon himself to defend her and show us more of who he is as a man and a soon-to-be lawyer. Now that sure would be welcome.