A phenomenal installment that thrives in its understated intensity and dedication to detail.
This recap of the Netflix K-Drama series Little Women (2022) season 1, episode 3 contains spoilers.
After a packed first week filled to the brim with thoughtful detail, expectations will have no doubt been high for the next instalments of Little Women. In that regard, episode three sustains the momentum, continuing the commitment to gripping storytelling that anchors the excellent acting on display. Should this show keep its excitement, it could well go down as one of the year’s best.
Little Women (2022) season 1, episode 3 recap
After we watch Hyeon-min fall to his death again, we cut to In-kyung giving her younger sister a dressing down, wondering if Hyo-rin can be considered a friend given her actions. In-hye responds with an explanation that the money for the painting taken from her will be used so she can study abroad, with her rich acquaintance’s mother promising a spot at Boston Arts High School in return for portfolio pieces. Shocked, the suspended journalist tells her sibling that what she is doing is a crime, though all she hears back is that the budding artist is not ashamed of her actions. “I was Park Hyo-rin, not Oh In-hye, when I painted it,” In-hye says, attempting to justify her actions, and downplay the achievement gained from the artwork.
At that point, In-kyung tells her sister that she is selling her soul. Yet In-hye questions what such a thing is even made of, stating that she would be flattered if hers was bought for a high price from Hyo-rin’s mother, because there’s no other obvious way for her to be able to study abroad. Meanwhile, a panicked In-joo pulls Director Shin out of the car, then rushes to call the emergency services.
When shunned by In-hye in regard to walking home together, In-kyung gets curious, quizzing her sister’s classmates in a bid to find out where the youngest of the Oh family is. Unsurprisingly, the artist is said to be at Hyo-rin’s house, in celebration of the award the rich girl received. Concurrently, In-joo answers the phone for Do-il, but is too drained to tell him the location of Hyeon-min’s crash due to the emergence of an ambulance. However, one thing definitively silences the office worker, the sight of a single blue orchid.
Upon arrival at Hyo-rin’s party, In-kyung ends up seeing Jae-sang, who appears willing to bring In-hye out to the journalist, yet forbid her entry. Nevertheless, the suspended reporter barges in, making a scene to the point her younger sister hides out of pure embarrassment. Ignoring any further attempts at communication, In-hye leaves In-kyung isolated.
Following this, Jae-sang sits down with In-hye. The attorney informs the artist that she is “way too talented to stay in Korea,” then heavily implies his willingness to invest in her future. Reminded of a “marvellous” plan being made for her, In-hye is thankful towards the one-percenters, while In-kyung turns back to drink in her period of strife. Elsewhere, a concerned Do-il returns In-joo’s phone to her at the hospital, and gives the shaken women a false account to stick to for any police questioning on Director Shin’s death.
Naturally, this arouses suspicions inside In-joo. She notes that Do-il asked if she was ok before any words were spoken on the phone call earlier, so questions if he already knew of Hyeon-min’s accident, then prods into the idea of the death not coming through misfortune at all. With that being said, the office worker is quickly shushed when the idea of her being in difficulty should she not lie to the police is brought forward, as Do-il notifies In-joo that she is already in trouble. Meanwhile, a drunken In-kyung climbs to the top of a CCTV pole in a bid to get In-hye to go home alongside her, but the artist is whisked inside, leaving the suspended journalist red-faced, the subject of gossip from those in attendance at Hyo-rin’s party, and filmed by her petty colleague Ma-ri who hopes this will all lead to a firing.
Once the sold off painting is announced to guests by In-kyung, In-hye finally feels flustered enough to leave the party, albeit begrudgingly. It’s not quite the smoothest of exits, though, as the two have to be helped by Jae-sang to ensure that the suspended journalist is not made to answer to the police following a report. Still, In-kyung is unable to stay quiet, so she slips in a question about why a rich man with everything is “eyeing” the youngest daughter of a poor family, warns the attorney about a pushback if he is to harm the sister she loves so much, then departs.
At the hospital, Do-il shows In-joo CCTV footage of Hwa-young withdrawing money from the bank, and details the situation about the two billion won that was taken out in cash. Aware that this now belongs to the office worker, he suggests that they pin the disappearance of said funds on Director Shin, claiming that this act is a favour afforded without strings attached. In-joo is still weary of the money-obsessed man, but she is told that this is exactly why she should trust him. “I wouldn’t gain anything by taking the money from you and giving it to another person,” Do-il adds, seemingly sealing the secret that will enable the working class woman to keep the money she was gifted.
Next, we see Sang-a lose her rag over mistakes that were made in checking the background of In-hye’s siblings, stressing that the future of her daughter is on the line. Jae-sang chooses to see the positive, though, believing that the current circumstances disable In-kyung from being able to speak up, as it will mean her sister’s life is ruined. That, and the attorney knows who the journalist cherishes most, meaning he has something to exploit. Elsewhere, the budding artist texts In-kyung about the embarrassing night she caused, outlining her plans to ignore the alcoholic from now on.
Torn, In-joo admits that she is too scared to continue her attempt at bringing the truth behind Hwa-young’s death to light, so privately vocalises an apology in the hope she can put the situation behind her. However, when reading about CEO Won Sang-woo at work, the office outcast soon finds herself right back into the thick of things, ready to visit him while carrying the orchid known as ‘princess’.
After reliving the night’s events thanks to In-hye’s harsh text, In-kyung finds herself in more trouble at work, where she is told that she needs to be fired to avoid charges from Jae-sang. Ma-ri is brutal here in her opinions of her fellow journalist, but such verbal venom only leads her to be banished from the meeting by Wan-gyu, and it sees her quizzed by her adversary as to why she was at the attorney’s party. “I made sure I got acquainted with his wife before he wins the election. It makes a huge difference to get a head start,” is the response.
Bluntly, In-kyung chooses to expose Ma-ri for filming the footage of her drunken antics, as well as the previous viral video of her facing up to Jae-sang, claiming that she recognises the breathing. However, Wan-gyu swiftly intervenes to prevent tensions rising further, ensuring he is left alone to speak with the suspended journalist about her actions. Vaguely, In-kyung references the fact her younger sister is involved in the story regarding the elite attorney, then retreats into her shell by saying that she does not think she deserves to be a reporter, so can be fired.
When visiting Sang-woo at the psychiatric hospital, In-joo asks her fellow outcast if he believes that Hwa-young killed herself. The CEO hears that the office worker thinks Director Shin murdered her friend, though acknowledges that this is a hunch hard to trust considering that he is now dead too. Following that, the topic shifts towards the cash given to In-joo, and the fear she has around it which persists despite her dream of having money to do the things she dreamt of when she was a child. “I don’t want to die because of money,” she says, only to be informed that she should keep and protect it unless her wish is to have the funds returned to “those who orchestrated the embezzlement.”
Continuing, In-joo ponders if the same encouragement was given to Hwa-young. Sang-woo tells the outcast that the deceased orchid keeper was brave, understanding “that rich people risk their capital while poor people must risk their lives.” This is a sentiment not yet fully processed by In-joo, who is simply told to spend the money that makes her anxious, so it is no longer transient. An apartment and winter coat appear to be on the agenda for this splurge, pleasing Sang-woo. The hospital patient then gifts the office worker the slush fund ledgers that could come in handy, before explaining that his fondness towards his new acquaintance is because Hwa-young said that In-joo resembled ‘Princess’. “You may not look like much now, but once you bloom, you’ll be more dazzling than anyone,” Sang-woo says, subsequently adding that he is curious to see this blooming.
As Do-il arrives at Sang-woo’s door, In-joo rushes to flee out of the window, taking with her the slush fund ledgers (this is what Do-il is here for) and money. Upon entry, the money-obsessed man finds the office worker’s phone, which ultimately leads to him spotting the escapee sprinting away from the hospital grounds. Somewhat disappointed, Do-il watches on. Elsewhere, Jae-sang films a tacky promotional video for his upcoming mayoral campaign, one which cynically includes the appearance of In-hye. Here, we see the budding artist’s confession that the rich family make her want to grow up, something she has not previously felt.
While waiting for a bus, In-joo finds herself the subject of Do-il’s attention once more, as he pulls over to give her a ride, as well as return her phone again. The slush fund investigator talks about the history of Sang-woo in the car, explaining that he “fell short” of General Won Gi-seon’s expectations, “lost a power struggle” with his brother-in-law, Jae-sang, and thus ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Quickly, though, attention turns to the gifted ledgers, which Do-il describes as being a part of Sang-woo’s plan to get revenge on Jae-sang without needing to do work himself.
Once In-joo has been mildly scared, Do-il continues to prod for information on Sang-woo’s potential involvement in Hwa-young’s embezzlement, yet only hears of the office worker’s desire to cut a deal. In exchange for her safety, in addition to two billion won, the ledgers will be handed over, an offer that seems fair to the outcast, but is rebuffed by the money-obsessed investigator due to timing concerns. “As the election approaches, the ledgers will become more valuable,” he states, before presenting an idea that the two team up 50/50, and that he will use his expertise to get the most money possible for the sought after documentation.
Continuing, when In-joo expresses her fear in teaming up with a man she suspects had something to do with Director Shin’s death, Do-il pulls over, ready to talk. He mentions everything from Hwa-young’s openness with him, to how he wished they worked together so she could have better implemented her plan and remained alive, to his recommendation that the outcast rents a safe deposit box from a bank to store the ledgers in and avoid harm. Do-il believes In-joo is a “gamechanger,” changing the “flow of air” no matter where she goes, even if this is not realised. Though if she wants to play the game currently on offer, she will need the money-obsessed man to help, something acknowledged through an unspoken agreement of a 60/40 split that sees the two ready to partner up.
After a sweet scene between In-kyung and Jong-ho which shows both the latter’s ETube channel, and the former’s passion for reporting, the Oh family’s middle child gets a call from Kim Hui-seong, the younger brother of the deceased Kim Cheol-seong. The two later meet, discussing Dal-su, the uncle believed to have killed himself by everyone aside from Cheol-seong, who watched back the video of the CCTV constantly in a bid to find something suspicious. Hui-seong gives this footage to In-kyung, kickstarting a fresh line of enquiry.
When watching the video, In-kyung seems puzzled by the idea that the restless Dal-su, who went as far as to lock himself in the bathroom for hours, suddenly behaved when Jae-sang was around, pretending to be asleep. Then, once the attorney left, the man went back into the bathroom, this time with a syringe, and was found dead thirty minutes later by a nurse. The journalist acknowledges that there is no doubt this is a suicide, so thinks about what could have been spotted by Cheol-seong when he continuously viewed the footage. It’s here Jong-ho notices that Dal-su smells something in front of the mirror prior to his death, a small, blue item.
At home, In-joo quietly places her belongings down, and talks to In-hye about the developing artist’s plans to study in Boston starting next month, alongside Hyo-rin. Naturally, the eldest sibling is against this, insisting that she will be the one to send her younger sister abroad, while cautioning In-hye about potentially having to owe the rich family something massive in the future. “I’d much rather live as a maid in Hyo-rin’s house, than live like you two in this house,” the youngest of the Oh family scathingly says, shocking In-joo.
Claiming that she made up her mind to do anything to get out of the house when their mother left with her field trip money, In-hye informs In-joo that consent has already been given to the school regarding her overseas studies, so there is no turning back now. Meanwhile, Jong-ho requests to tag along when In-kyung next covers the risky story she is pursuing, wanting to protect her so that he isn’t fully alone when his ailing grandfather passes away.
Soon, their conversation shifts onto the blue orchid kept at Jong-ho’s house that was found at the scene of Cheol-seong’s accident, with In-kyung deducing that this was the same thing smelt by Dal-su prior to his death. With an understanding of the killer’s motif lingering, we cut to In-joo’s meeting with Sang-a. There, the two talk about In-hye’s studies, and the office worker attempts to pay the required money for the upcoming school fees, only to find out that her sister got in on a scholarship thanks to Jae-sang. Taken aback, In-joo then looks along the artist’s portfolio, scanning through the bleak paintings that suggest deep troubles.
Shockingly, one picture seems to reveal a hidden truth. A dying sister is painted in the corner of one of the pieces of art, something Sang-a picks up on to be a reflection of In-hye’s “struggling sister.” Instructing the outcast to not to try so hard given the fact she isn’t the artist’s mother, the one-percenter ends the meeting, though later expresses her curiosity to Ms. Go over the fact In-joo had turned up in expensive shoes, and had an adequate amount of cash with her.
As In-kyung pokes around for information on the blue orchid with Jong-ho, In-joo releases her tensions at yoga. Or at least she tries to, until memories of another sibling in the family who died while only a baby come rushing back. At that point, we concurrently see that Jong-ho has found the information on the rare flower, which “resembles blue smoke hanging in the air,” and is also dubbed the ‘Ghost of Vietnam’ due to its failure to breed once soldiers brought it into the US during the Vietnam war.
At the house, In-kyung is astounded by the discovery of the hefty sum of money sat around in containers. So, she questions In-joo about it, knowing that it could well have something to do with Hwa-young. “This is stealing,” the journalist says, worried about her sibling’s safety now that she has taken dirty money. Yet the inquest is not allowed to finish, as the outcast quickly brings up the dead sibling that has been on her mind since yoga, striking In-kyung. Learning that this death caused their father to drink, and their mother to decline mentally, In-kyung now knows why she was sent to live with her great-aunt at a young age, but is still completely dumfounded.
Using this to justify her feelings that people die without money, In-joo reflects on the lives their family could have led had they always had this cash. Nevertheless, In-kyung remains firm in her stance that she does not want to become a thief, because that would mean she has lost. “If you intend to take this money, I’ll turn you in,” the journalist expands, hearing back that her older sibling will go to prison after spending it, as well as that In-hye is aware of the deceased sibling they had, even though it happened before her birth.
Realising why she drinks, why her father looked sad while drinking, why In-hye is so dear to her, and that she was constantly looking for the story of her family, In-kyung narrates her reflections on what she was told as we see the three sisters go about their differing lives. Then, we move to In-joo, who asks her great-aunt to help ensure that the two billion won in cash she has can go towards an apartment for the trio of sisters. Using the elderly woman’s guilt in what happened to the deceased sibling, the office worker says that this purchase is a chance to eradicate such feelings, something that is duly agreed upon.
At Hyo-rin’s house, In-hye looks around, spotting a collection of figurines. One such thing is a doll of Ariadne, which the 18-year-old looks ready to steal until she is caught by Jae-sang. The attorney walks over, explaining that the items on display were bought on the General’s business trip to the UK, and that he threw away one of Sang-woo’s soldiers which he was not allowed to play with. Explaining his history as the son of the General’s driver, Jae-sang talks about how, once, everything in the luxurious home was amazing to him to the point he would steal, upset that he didn’t belong. “I wanted to live here,” he says, teaching In-hye a lesson that thieving is not the answer, but rather showing strength and loyalty is.
Upon hearing why In-hye let Hyo-rin take her painting, Jae-sang talks about the sacrifices he overcame to get to where he is now. Then, he asks if the budding artist wants the Ariadne doll, wondering if she can betray someone, even if it is the person who loves her the most. With a determined, yet emotional look on In-hye’s face, the episode ends.
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