The Suspicious Housekeeper

Doesn’t this k-drama look like a horror movie? Don’t worry, it’s not. It’s a weird mix of melodrama, crime thriller, and good ole family fare.  The Suspicious Housekeeper, our titular character, is suspicious indeed .. although I wonder if a better English word could have been used in the translation. Like, mysterious or strange. Suspicious is just kind of a mouthful. Anyways, Park Bok-nyeo (Choi Ji-woo) arrives at the Eun home after the mother passes away, leaving behind four children and a husband who couldn’t care less about his kids. Instead, he’s busy trying to get into the pants of his hot co-worker, Yoon Song-hwa, whom he’s been trysting with for quite awhile, but after his wife dies Song-hwa realizes that if she marries him she’ll have to take care of his four kids. She’s like hellz no.

Eun Sang-chul’s kids are adorable. The little girl, Eun Hye-kyul steals every scene she’s in. Gosh can this kid cry. If I ever had to baby-sit her she’d probably make off with every dollar in my wallet just by trembling her lower lip.

Her older brother Eun Se-kyul is a nerdy math whiz who gets bullied until Bok-nyeo steps in and helps him face his fears.

The eldest brother Doo-kyul is a brash idiot. There’s a weird and disturbing scene where he slaps Bok-nyeo’s face in front of the whole family but no one stops him. He also orders her to sleep with him but backs out when she starts to follow through. As a housekeeper, Boy-nyeo follows every order she’s given, even if it’s murder. Eventually Doo-kyul redeems himself and he becomes a less annoying character, but it takes awhile to warm up to him.

I much prefer the eldest daughter’s storyline. Han-kyul, especially since she’s more mature and active about trying to uncover the truth behind her father’s affair and the mystery behind Bok-nyeo.

She’s also involved a slow, but sweet first love romance

which is part of a love triangle that works out all right since they’re all in the same band.

triangle

Love their “hit” single. The actress has a beautiful innocent voice.

Besides this quirky family, the cast includes the “other” woman, Yoon Song-hwa, who somehow manages to dress in the sluttiest professional clothes possible. She redeems herself in the end, and since she never seems happy, watching her scenes is bearable because there’s some justice in watching her suffer for her sins. (Unlike her character in Personal Taste who never got around to facing the music.)

There’s also a crazy stalker who is revealed in the last few episodes where things take a turn for the melodramatic.

But at least the mystery is revealed in a fairly satisfactory way and you’re not left hanging as to who Bok- nyeo actually is. Is she a spy? A former gangster? The children’s mother reincarnated? Or the Korean Mary Poppins? You’ll have to watch to see.


What stood out to me most about this k-drama was its frank portrayal of difficult topics. When the children’s father is asked if he loves his kids, he answers honestly – “I don’t know.” This revelation hurts the children, but it’s an honest answer coming from a man who lives in a society where women take on the bulk of child rearing. If you don’t spend time with your kids, even if they are blood, how can you truly care about them?

The series also indirectly makes the viewer think about the value of a housekeeper versus the value of a homemaker. A housekeeper gets an hourly salary but is not expected to really look out for the family’s welfare. Bok-nyeo makes it clear that she will not get involved in the family’s problems (even though she does) and she refuses to smile or spend time with the children outside of work. In contrast, a homemaker is expected to do all the duties of a housekeeper (cook, clean, childcare) but also rear the children. In exchange, she gets room and board, “love”, and an official position in the family where she can wield some power. However, since she isn’t paid monetarily for fulfilling her duties, gradually the family takes for granted the clean house and good food that they get on a daily basis … which is kind of what happens to the children’s mother before she commits suicide. And on a larger scale, it’s probably why so many homemakers get depressed and feel unfulfilled. It’s a problem with a solution, which this k-drama explores, the solution which is to foster a family with mutual respect, frank communication, and most importantly – love.

The Suspicious Housekeeper – Grade B+

Pros: Really thoughtful storyline, great acting all-around, didn’t have to fast-forward through any scenes. A real tear-jerker so keep that box of tissues close by.

Cons: The final episode was weird for me. I feel like the father’s character needed some developing, and the relationship between him and Bok-nyeo was still unnatural, but the writers felt like they had to end it because more episodes committed to creating a romantic connection wouldn’t have been possible. I guess the point was that if they were to get married, it would be more of a marriage of convenience, which isn’t exactly the fairy tale ending you’d want from a k-drama. It’s just life.

 

 

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