Another outstanding chapter that adds new wrinkles to the characters, and gives thoughtful backstories to motifs.
This recap of the Netflix series Little Women (2022) season 1, episode 4 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Much like yesterday’s offering, Little Women episode four is seamlessly thought out, excelling in its thoughtful storytelling. Here, we get to find out more about the mysterious blue orchids ever present in the story, while also having the characters develop by thrusting them into unfamiliar situations. To echo sentiments expressed yesterday, if this show keeps up its momentum, there’s no reason it won’t be considered one of the year’s finest efforts.
Little Women (2022) season 1, episode 4 recap
As In-hye tries to get Jae-sang to reveal his sacrifice, she hears in response a simple statement: “My Father’s death.” Then, we cut to In-joo talking with her great-aunt about riches, with Hye-suk believing that people become affluent by choice, and that she chose to become well-off when buying an apartment instead of remarrying.
Following that, we get mirroring sequences. One shows In-joo happily exploring the sleek apartment that her great-aunt may sell to her, while the other displays Hyo-rin’s curiosity in poking around the Oh family’s residence, curiously learning what it’s like to have less privilege. Here, we also digest Hye-suk’s thoughts that capitalism is a “psychological game,” before she explains that only the wealthy can overcome a sense of loss. “You must be ready to lose something to make big money. Because only those who risk more can win,” the wise elder says, after detailing the importance of a good home as a starting point for a strong life.
At the rooftop of the Oh family home, Hyo-rin smilingly exclaims that everything here is real, as well as that In-hye’s sisters love their youngest sibling. “I’d be much more grateful if I were you,” the rich girl says, kickstarting a mini questioning over whether affection has to be accepted if one doesn’t want it. Soon though, the lightness returns to the pair’s conversation, allowing them to happily jaunt off towards Hyo-rin’s house for a sleepover.
Claiming that the apartment that she could never have imagined owning likes her, In-joo tries to get In-kyung on side regarding the impending purchase. It’s a tough sell, given that the suspended journalist still believes it’s stolen money being used, and that she thinks poverty strengthened the family, but there is some stuttering when the fact such destitution led to their late sibling’s death is brought up. Nevertheless, In-kyung stands firm, expressing her desire to quit alcohol and change her life around, unable to accept that her life can only be improved by living without monetary concerns. “I’m someone who reports embezzlement, theft, and fraud as crimes,” the journalist states, pondering how she can report the news while living in a house purchased with “stolen money.” At that point, the message becomes clear. If In-joo really feels the need to buy the apartment, In-kyung wishes to cut ties with her older sister.
Later on, the suspended journalist meets with a woman who witnessed Dal-su’s behaviour on the day of his death. The nurse details the messy antics that included the man crying about being killed, and his bathroom self-harming, then notes the elder’s surprisingly sudden calmness when Jae-sang appeared. Continuing, she explains the attorney’s words to Dal-su comprised of statements about an unfinished war, a waiting general, and a question regarding how high someone from “rock bottom” can rise to. “To the highest and the brightest place” was the almost programmed reply. Expanding further, the witness mentions that Jae-sang then looked at her, causing her to almost let out screams due to his cold demeanour. Finally, confirmation comes that the flower in Dal-su’s hand was a blue orchid gifted by the lawyer.
In between In-kyung and Jong-ho’s research into a translated book that contextualises the mysterious blue orchid dubbed ‘The Orchid of Death’, we watch as In-hye is taken on a “little date” with Sang-a while Hyo-rin is with a maths tutor. This trip is to the rich women’s secret orchid garden, one filled with the poisonous plants being simultaneously investigated into, and is punctuated with the eery gifting of one of the flowers to the 18-year-old. In-hye is not allowed to keep hold of the orchid, though, but rather has to allow the tree to take care of her new belonging.
As Sang-a commissions a “secret portrait” to be drawn by In-hye, we hear the backstory behind the blue orchid that poses a threat to those who come across it, narrated by In-kyung. “When you first encounter the orchid, you will feel your pain disappear just by smelling it, and soon begin to feel pleasantly dizzy,” she says, before vocally wondering whether the flower was used as a sedative by Jae-sang to calm Dal-su. However, Jong-ho points out that it’s likely the elder already knew of the soothing effects given he consciously smelt it.
Next, In-kyung returns to reading the book. “For the extremely sensitive, the orchid can increase their pulse, make them feel light-footed, and at times, even cause hallucinations,” she reads, as we see In-hye begin to feel the harsh after effects. Still, the artist finds the stability to ask why her drawing of Sang-a needs to be kept private, leading her to be informed that the rich woman is only interested in things that are secretive. “Knowing what everyone else knows is no fun,” she states, aware that In-hye feels the same away.
Continuing, Sang-a notices In-hye’s paleness, so queries whether she is alright. Concurrently, In-kyung discovers that the roots of the blue orchids, when brewed as tea, can trigger deep sleeps, an action described by shamans as “the first step of the stairs to heaven” because it is the state that they often “come across the spirits of the deceased” in. At this point, Sang-a watches as the hallucinating In-hye, who is hearing that if she doesn’t escape she will die, collapses to the floor.
At the hospital, In-joo rushes to the room her sister is in, but is shushed upon arrival by Sang-a, who informs the eldest child that her sister is asleep, tired from all the tests. Worried, the office worker expresses her regret in coming so late, and is told that the condition of In-hye is deemed to be ventricular tachycardia, something that could cause her to die “any minute.” As such, the artist needs to undergo further exams, in addition to surgery, immediately so a defibrillator can be placed in her chest.
When the doctor asks In-joo if anyone in the family has died due to heart disease, the outcast is forced to phone her upset mother, needing to find out whether her deceased sibling suffered from such a condition. Though we don’t hear an answer, just the shock in Hee-yeon’s voice that her late daughter has been remembered by In-joo.
As In-kyung arrives, the expensive situation which includes device replacements and medication, is explained to her. As well as this, the journalist finds out that their dead sister was named In-seon, and died of the same condition as In-hye, so she reluctantly agrees that the “stolen” two billion won is to be put towards the life-saving surgery. Meanwhile, Jae-sang takes a question at an event about how he was able to find success despite his unfortunate circumstances, with the answer being that it was easy due to his childhood experiences being more difficult than anything else.
Next, Do-il is told by Su-im that she is completing a background check on In-joo, not tailing her, yet he still expresses his concerns. “Ms. Oh is important to us,” the investigator says, believing that one mistake could cause the two to lose the 70 billion won they’re pursuing. Then, the two head inside to meet with Jae-sang, informing him of his improvements in approval ratings amongst the public. Su-im illustrates that the attorney is increasingly popular amongst the younger generation, saying that the tables will be turned with one more move. Nevertheless, angst at the missing 70 billion is expressed, given that this could be the gamechanger. With that being said, a fresh opportunity coincidentally arises, as Jae-sang looks set to exploit In-hye’s sorrow for a documentary he is filming, thus appealing to the prospective voters further.
While In-kyung patches things up with In-hye, who admits that she sometimes despised her sister’s love due to wanting a different kind (the type for being a good painter, because she’s useful etc), the artist elaborates about her fear of dying before she could show people who she is. “I always felt like I was being chased and like I was going to suddenly die,” the 18-year-old adds, as In-kyung fully expresses the qualities that make her love her younger sister.
Meanwhile, In-joo is warned by Do-il not to touch her cash as Jae-sang is doing a background check, with the money-obsessed man worried about the implications it could have on their deal. Though the outcast remains adamant that she will be using it for the urgent surgery needed, even when information is presented about the “cunning and brutal” Su-im coming for her. As such, In-joo is swiftly exposed by the pursuer, who spots the backpack that was used to pack away the embezzled money now in the office worker’s possession.
In the next scene, the money is counted out by Su-im in an abandoned building. Here, In-joo begs to borrow back 100 million won, desperate to have something for her sister’s treatment, and genuinely thinking that she is entitled to a sum. Naturally, this is rejected by the stone-faced Jae-sang associate, but she does accept that she is curious in regard to how far the pleading outcast will go for money. So, when challenged to find out, Su-im decides to get violent, promising to lend the cash if In-joo can take ten hits. What follows is brutal viewing, based around the fear that is said to begin growing inside of the Oh family’s eldest daughter while she is being beaten.
Even when a threat of death is brought forward, In-joo holds out, ready to accept whatever comes her way. However, Do-il intervenes, sternly pulling a weapon away from Su-im while scolding her for acting out of line again. Unmoving, In-joo wishes for the “game” to continue in spite of all the danger, until Sang-a appears, upset over what has unfolded. “If there’s a problem, I’ll deal with it myself,” she says, prior to comforting the dishevelled outcast.
At night, In-joo is startled by the familiar surroundings she is taken to by Sang-a, in addition to the three-of-a-kind shoes on her feet. Anyhow, an explanation is soon provided without prompt, as the rich woman describes how she used to come to the same restaurant with Hwa-young once a month, that she told her about the yoga place, and gave her the items she no longer used. It all indicates a certain level of closeness, which mildly quells the worries In-joo has. Well, it does at first, as Sang-a soon causes increased tension when explaining that she knew the embezzled money must have been given to the office worker based on her wearing of the three-of-a-kind shoes, revealing that it was she who first gave them to Hwa-young, not Director Shin. Instead, Hyeon-min had gifted his pair to Sang-a.
Shocked at what is being uttered, In-joo expresses her confusion over Hwa-young’s privacy in never revealing that she had a rich friend. Sang-a subsequently proves that her stories are genuine by showing that she is the other person in all of the photos uploaded on the deceased woman’s private social media account, then acknowledges that Hwa-young knew that secrets should always be kept. Still doubtful, In-joo wants to know why all of this is being said anyway, and hears back that the thought of her late friend’s “insulting” attitude still makes Jae-sang’s wife upset, as well as the fact Sang-a wants the eldest of the Oh family to work as her assistant. “You’ll be in charge of my schedule, money, and orchids,” the rich woman says, exploiting In-joo’s need for capital in a bid to coerce an acceptance.
Along with a caveat that Sang-a never wishes to become friends with her, In-joo accepts the role, still desperate to obtain the required fee for her sister’s surgery. However, any further discussions on contracts are forced to wait, as news soon arrives that In-hye has had another episode, meaning that she needs potentially life-threatening surgery immediately. Outside, In-kyung enquires about the bruises on her older sibling’s face, but ends up stunned by a response outlining the journalist’s need to stay put should she wish for the treatment money to be a non-issue.
After some nightmarish visions, In-hye wakes up from successful surgery, asking for her mother to be called. The artist wants to know why it feels like she has died before under the name In-seon while being carried on someone’s back, causing In-joo to intervene, and admonish her parent for telling such a young child about the tragedy. Then, it’s In-kyung’s turn to scold Hee-yeon, this time over her inability to return to Korea because of their father’s persistent gambling. With all that in mind, the sisters block their mother from contacting them, distraught.
Once In-joo deals with In-kyung’s interruption, the Park family film their documentary at In-hye’s bedside, using her situation for the benefit of Jae-sang’s political progression. Nevertheless, the artist is clearly grateful for the one-percenter’s intervention, even if it draws the ire of the suspended journalist, who learns outside that the now surrendered slush fund money belonged to the elite attorney. In-kyung lets it be known that she does not want their younger sibling’s life to be in the hands of a man like Jae-sang, but In-joo is firm in her belief that such sentiments can only be expressed when they have the money to pay for things like treatment.
Unprovoked, Jae-sang arrives to tell his adversary that she does not have to stop investigating him just because he paid for In-hye’s treatment, given that he doesn’t want to disclose his helping of her. Upset, In-kyung says that this was her intention, and walks off. Following that, the Oh family’s great-aunt disrupts proceedings, arriving on the scene to ensure that she is the one who pays for In-hye’s surgery. Here, the elder tells Jae-sang that she knew his father, Il-bok, someone she would often go looking for land to buy with in a bygone era. Then, she unflinchingly foots the bill of the treatment costs, as promised.
After Do-il is noticeably shocked at the changing of account names on his breakthrough in finding some of the embezzled money in Singapore, we cut to In-hye in hospital. The youngster mentions that she will stay at Hyo-rin’s house once discharged to help prepare for her Boston move, something she is still determined to make happen despite her illness. Wanting to be taught conventions by Sang-a, In-hye rejects the assistance of her sisters, wanting to “escape” the family that is perceived to hold her back.
While eating together, In-kyung and In-joo discuss that their sister has become a different person, before the latter expresses her need to do the same. The outcast explains here that she has the slush fund ledgers Director Shin had kept for 25 years, and will use them to get an abundance of money. It will enable the sisters to get a Han River view apartment, as well as allow them to send In-hye abroad free from aid, but In-kyung is more concerned with the idea that it can help her look into every crime Jae-sang’s family was involved in. Though her eagerness is swiftly stunted, with it being made clear that the eldest sibling will get her way.
Succeeding a video call with Mr. Joel Fields, a man who obtained a blue orchid in return for never showing his research book in public, In-kyung matches the address of Fields’ translator to one given to her by Cheol-seong (he had said for her to start investigations there). Meanwhile, In-joo talks with Do-il about their next move, which happens to be having the outcast working for Sang-a, holding off on using the ledgers. Then, the outcast is shown the apartment unit, classic car, and other things now under her name in Singapore, all of which were transferred from Hwa-young. Do-il says that the deceased woman lived under In-joo’s name overseas for three years, something that was concluded by the 70 billion won being transferred across several banks under the name of the Oh family’s eldest child (an act she had obliviously signed up for during the pair’s meal at a fancy restaurant some time ago). Finally, In-joo brings an end to the episode with a simple statement: “I need to go to Singapore right away.”
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